By ANTONIO J. LEDESMA, SJ
Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro .
AS we approach the feastdays of Sta. Monica and her son, St. Augustine, on Aug. 27 and 28, we can also keep in mind this year’s designation by the Catholic bishops as the Year of the Youth. Sta. Monica herself never tired of praying for the return of her wayward son, Augustine, who in his youthful search for the truth in various philosophies had strayed away from the truth of his Faith.
Pope Francis, in his pastoral exhortation, Christus Vivit, addressed to the youth, reminds us that Christ is indeed alive — for the youth and for all of us. Youthfulness is a special grace and a state of mind for every human being. The youth are not only the future, but the present of the Church — in sheer numbers as well as in the living out of our Christian Faith. The Church herself, in continuing Christ’s mission to the world is “the real youth of the world,” making possible for us “to encounter Christ, the companion and friend of youth.”
Let us then celebrate our fiesta with the spirit of youthful joy in the presence of a loving and merciful God who is ever by our side to heal us and strengthen us as we confront the challenges in our society today.
Foremost among this is the call for waging peace, instead of waging war, among our tri-people communities in Mindanao. Last February, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar issued a joint statement in Abu Dhabi on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.” This was addressed to the world-wide Christian and Muslim communities to heed the call that “faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved.” In the face of long-held prejudices, armed conflict, and terrorist attacks against innocent persons, the two religious leaders “declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”
The joint statement in Abu Dhabi was also adopted by a gathering of bishops, presidents of Catholic schools and Muslim leaders in Davao on Aug. 14, in support of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm). The religious leaders particularly pointed out the need for continuing the horizontal dialogue among ordinary Christians, Muslims and Lumads in daily life situations. Their conference was aptly entitled, “Walking and Working Together for Healing and Reconciliation.”
For us in the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, let this also be our standard in peace-building in conflict-ridden areas. We can do away with the red-tagging of certain church groups, journalists and human rights lawyers who advocate addressing the root causes of un-peace. We can also do away with the yellow-tagging of some church officials and political opposition leaders by the filing of sedition charges without credible evidence.
Another challenge confronting us is the care of our common home, our planet Earth. Last July, the Catholic bishops issued “An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency.” Here in our city, government officials have passed an ordinance for waste segregation while Xavier University has led the ban against single-use plastic containers. The CBCP letter points out the moral basis of our response to climate emergency, intergenerational responsibility, the rights of Nature itself, and the commitment to live the spirit and principles of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.
One measure that is now pending in our local legislature is the passage of an ordinance for the Payment of Ecological Services (PES), which would institutionalize the rehabilitation of our watershed areas to protect Cagayan de Oro River and other tributaries. On our part, we can exercise the judicious use of water as indeed the source of life for our community and all living beings.
Let these threefold challenges then be our way of celebrating our feast day — in a return to the youthfulness of our faith in an ever-present God; in our efforts at building peace in Mindanao; and in our care for the environment and integral ecology. May the intercession of our Birhen sa Kota be our guide and protection.