AFTER only a decade since its creation in 1991, the weblog or “blog,” the web-based journal service, has not only been the alternative medium for youthful outbursts and views. The ubiquitous online journal has, of late, become the new pulpit for the country’s prelates.

Following the late Pope John Paul II’s call to use modern media and technology for evangelization, six Filipino Catholic bishops are making the Internet an integral part of their mission.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who started blogging as early as December 2004, saw the blog’s potential to make the people aware of the current socio-political concerns and the moral dimension that outlines those issues.

That same year, Borongan Bishop Leonardo Medroso created his blog, which discusses catechism, on the popular blog site www.blogspot.com.

Dipolog Archbishop Jose Manguiran and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo joined the blog trend in February and September, of last year, respectively.

Also in the list are former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president, Davao Arhcbishop Fernando Capalla and incumbent president, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, who both welcomed the idea of an online journal last November.

Blogging the gospel

Of the six bishop bloggers, Cruz is the most active, with updates up to three times a week. Cruz said the online journal appealed to him because he directly communicates to the readers. It would also help journalists with Church beats because they can use the blog to verify their stories, he said.

A staunch crusader against illegal gambling, Cruz’s blog, titled “Viewpoints,” reiterates how the politicking and corruption of erring officials and political leaders have sustained chronic “illnesses” that affect economic growth. In it, he enumerates elements that continuously attack the stability of the state and criticizes the present government’s indifference over the worsening situation of Filipinos.

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Medroso, meanwhile, has a different approach to the blog, using it to preach the gospel. Although his blog touches a fragment of the political sphere, his journal is basically a repository of catechism.

His “Tidbits” contains topics about God’s relationships with His people, Christianity, requisites toward a Christian life, and the role of the lay people in social transformation. Medroso uses analogies in the Bible as well as in real life as illustrations in his essays.

“The Meaning” of Manguiran is similar to Medroso’s, with entries dwelling mainly on Christian teachings. The Dipolog archbishop’s blog encourages readers to learn how to sacrifice, accept, and repent for their sins.

In one entry, Manguiran highlights the importance of Christ’s presence in people’s lives through self-denial. By refusing the temptations in life and offering one’s service to the needy, Christ enters into our lives, he says.

“Self-denial, when it is sincerely put into practice among the Filipinos, will greatly help recover our national posture…The spirit of denial from those which do not enhance life is an imperative now than ever before. Jesus said, ‘unless a tree dies, it will not grow.’ In St. John’s confession, ‘I must decrease and he must increase’,” Manguiran’s blog reads.

Cotabato Archbishop Quevedo’s “Perspectives” so far contains only two entries. Quevedo’s last post, dated back September 24, is a commentary on the country’s deteriorating economy and CBCP’s allegely ineffective Truth Committee to the wiretap controversy, involving President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Truth is not solely the Committee’s responsibility but everyone’s he said. Instead of resorting to political dispute, he urges the people, especially political leaders, to work for the economic survival of the country.

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Capalla’s blog has only three posts. Called “Dialogues,” he gives light on interviews and the stand of CBCP on the GMA wiretapping issue. His journal is specifically made for newsmen, composed of transcribed interviews for everyone’s ready reference.

Meanwhile, CBCP president Archbishop Lagdameo’s blog includes his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, Inc. last Dec. 7. In the speech, he articulates what is expected of individuals and national leaders to achieve national transformation.

Net users can access the bishops’ blogs by logging on to CBCP’s homepage (www.cbcponline.net). Meanwhile, direct access to the bishops’ site is through Blogspot.

Evangelical purpose

In the online tabloid Sun Star, Mark Inigo Tallara, information officer and media relation assistant of CBCP said “our aim is to make every bishop accessible to the faithful, particularly to the youth that’s why we want each of them to have their own blog.”

Although the CBCP welcomes the idea of the bishops’ use of blogs, only the bishops with ecclesiastical jurisdictions will be given blogs so people under their respective area could use the blog to communicate with them.

According to Cruz, this form of communication expands the priest’s pastoral work because it is accessible to anyone through the Internet.

“A bishop or a priest who uses a website or a blog to put his thoughts about the Gospel will definitely reach a vast number of people who are willing to read it,” he told the Varsitarian.

“While he can use the traditional means to preach his flock, the blog definitely allows him to have infinite audience,” Cruz said.

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Despite the evangelical purposes of his blog, Cruz stresses that his thoughts and comments on his blogs are based on pure reason, so atheists as well as non-Catholics would be able to understand his entries.

“My blog is not meant to preach, but to clarify realities based on reason. I always appeal to ethical standard, which is in the sphere of philosophy and not Theology, so other sects or atheists will understand the message,” Cruz said.

Modern tools to spread the word

The late Pope’s invitation to maximize and develop the use of Information Technology (IT) reflected his media savvy and allowed the Internet to be perceived as a boost to the Christian faith.

Before the blog even achieved its popularity among the prelates, John Paul II’s call to use IT to evangelize was immediately heeded in the Philippines after CBCP World, an online bandwith provider, was launched to promote the Gospel and human values as well as improve the mass media and social communications.

And with the recent use of the Internet blog to propagate the good news, the church’s shepherds enhance their pastoral work by reaching to the people on a wider scale. Blogging today. Tomorrow, 3G mobility? Mary Rose M. Pabelonia

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