‘Gift of Christ’ given 500 years ago celebrated

Fil 500 Hamilton

Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe reminded Filipino-Kiwi Catholics in the diocese that, as they were gifted with Christ 500 years ago through the baptism of the first Filipinos, they are called upon to give of themselves and share in the mission of Christ.

Bishop Lowe celebrated a Mass marking the Quincentenary of Christianity in the Philippines at St Matthew’s church in Silverdale, Hamilton, on March 13. Fathers Mark Field and Fernando Ladio Alombro concelebrated.

Around 200 members of the Filipino community in Hamilton attended the Mass.

“We have been gifted with Christ. It is Christ who gives himself and stretches out his hands for all humanity. And in the same way, we are called to be bearers of Christ as well,” the bishop said.

Bishop Lowe said that, throughout the years, the Catholic faith had been nurtured by parents, priests and religious, and had taken deep root in the lives of Filipinos.

“But, there is a virus going on. Cardinal (Luis) Tagle said at the youth synod in 2018, over a hundred thousand Filipinos each year leave the Church. There is a virus in this world that is trying to make us forget about our God, to become indifferent to God. And when we experience difficulties and struggles, then we need to work even harder,” the bishop said.

“Being Catholic is not just something passive [where] we come to sit in the pews of the church, and we go home again as if nothing has changed. The word ‘Mass’ means mission,” he said. “We come in here and we are gifted by the Word of God, by the Body and Blood of Christ. And we set out there to be gifts to the world, to share Christ, so that he might transform the world.”

Bishop Lowe said there is a connection between New Zealand and the Philippines in the person of Kiwi missionary, Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, who was in the Philippines during the Second World War

“[Fr Douglas] would hear the confessions of the soldiers . . . that the Filipino people were hiding. But eventually, the Japanese came. They took him. They tortured him. And then, he just disappeared. No one knows what happened in his death,” the bishop said.

Bishop Lowe said the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints told the New Zealand bishops that they should be pushing for Fr Douglas to be declared a martyr and a saint.

At the start of his homily, Bishop Lowe noted that there is also a Mass in Rome, celebrated by Pope Francis with Cardinal Tagle, commemorating the quincentenary.

Bishop Lowe said he met Cardinal Tagle a few years ago at the youth synod. “The thing that really struck me about Cardinal Tagle is he knew the poorest of the poor in Manila. He knew the young people. He knew families. He knew the struggles in people’s lives. He was a real priest. He had the heart of his people,” he said.

The bishop said there was speculation at that time that Cardinal Tagle might become the next pope.

“Who knows? Coming after 500 years, is the first pope from Asia going to be your own Cardinal Tagle?” he said.

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Rowena Orejana

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