THE SERIES of jubilees and other significant religious celebrations in the Filipino Catholic Church and the world at large should indicate that 2016 is a time to strengthen the faith in family and the Church.

Pope Francis has declared December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016 as an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and he has reminded Catholics to practice “mercy before judgment.”

Meanwhile last November 7 last year, candles were lit for the Order of Preachers’ 800th anniversary. The Dominican family is urged to relive and rekindle its mission of “salvation of souls” and “spreading the lumen (light)” through preaching the Word of God.

Aside from the jubilees, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has declared 2016 as the Year of the Eucharist and Family.

As of press time, the Archdiocese of Cebu is hosting of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC).

Filipinos should also not forget that the Universal Church is marking the Year of Consecrated Life which started in November 2014 and will end in February this year.

All these religious events aim to strengthen the Catholic faith.

To be sure, the success of these events will have an impact on the basic unit of the society—the family.

The mantra “a family that prays together, stays together” has served the families in the Philippines, where strong family ties are evident.

But given the threats to the sanctity of the family, prayer should be backed with forgiveness and reconciliation.

Choosing to depart from his prepared speech during the Meeting of Families last year in Manila, Pope Francis warned Filipino families of “ideological colonization” and threats on the sanctity of human life.

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The Social Weather Stations released a survey last March revealing that 60 percent of adult Filipinos were in favor of legalizing divorce. This is equivalent to 6 out of 10 Filipino adults going against the teaching of the Catholic Church.

A 2014 survey titled “Voice of the People,” conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International, showed that majority of the Filipinos (50 percent) favored the “communion” for the divorced. Forty-six percent did not agree.

But during the 2015 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Family, majority of bishops did not favor communion for divorced and remarried, despite many European bishops more or less favoring it.

But Catholics who have divorced and remarried have nothing to be afraid of because the Church will “walk with them,” according to the final synod statement.

Absolution will however not be granted in a snap. Divorced and remarried people should examine their conscience.

The Synod stand is not cruel. It shows how the Church acts like a mother who always welcomes, teaches and encourages her child.

Like a mother forgiving and loving her children despite shortcomings, the Church is extending maternal care to make the faithful feel that God’s mercy is limitless, even to those who have committed sins, as reflected in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Abortion is also one of the aspects of “ideological colonization” that Pope Francis has been warning Filipino Catholics about, recognizing it as one of the threats to the sanctity of a family. But the Holy Father likewise assures forgiveness for those who have committed such a grave sin.

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Thus, Pope Francis has authorized the clergy to absolve the sin of abortion to those who will repent through the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Year of Mercy.

All of these actions to strengthen the spiritual ties of family are backed by the declaration of the Year of the Eucharist and Family, which stresses the family’s duty to be missionary disciples of the Eucharist.

The 51st IEC is likewise a strong call for Filipinos to make the Holy Mass an occasion for family unity and for mercy for those who may have committed mistakes against life and family.

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