Holiness does not mean being less human, PCNE 5 participants told

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Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle opens this year's Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization, now on its fifth year, at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion on Wednesday. (Photo by Miguel Sunglao/The Varsitarian)

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said Wednesday being closer to God does not mean being less human, as he opened the first day of the 5th Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization (PCNE) at the UST Quadricentennial Pavillion.

“Kasi po kung minsan ang tingin natin inverse proportion. Parang if you want to be more God, you should be less human. In the priesthood of Christ it is not more of God and less of solidarity with humanity, as though more of engagement in humanity will lessen my being attached to God,” Tagle said in his plenary talk.

The cardinal said the clergy and religious should practice “existential solidarity” with sinners instead of “ritual separation.”

“Instead of ritual separation [and] of privilege, we find in Jesus the priest even an extreme lowering of oneself as manifested in the washing of the feet. This emptying of prerogative and glory becomes the assumption of the human condition,” he said.

Tagle urged the participants of the PCNE to follow Christ who did not let his sufferings become an “occasion to complain, to preserve and protect himself.”

“The perfection of obedience to God comes when you do not understand anymore the will of God. Complete docility to the will of God [is] when you know you will be going beyond what is familiar, what is comfortable. But because it is God’s will, you integrate it to your self-offering,” he said.

Thomasian Jesuit priest Fr. Albert Alejo said the Church and its people should not ignore the culture of impunity amid cases of extrajudicial killings in the country under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against drugs.

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“Is it a time for the Church to be more active? Hanggang kalembang lang ba tayo ng kampana? [W]e already know that murder, corruption is wrong, we do not need God to reveal moral laws in an unequivocal manner. What we need instead is for people to speak,” the former Varsitarian Filipino writer said.

The Church too, must “learn the language” of participating in public discourse and should be ready for those who would find faults in it, Alejo added.

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, in his homily during the Eucharistic celebration to cap the first day of PCNE, called on the clergy and religious to imitate the Lord’s “self-emptying” by threading the path of humility and self-denial.

“To celebrate in spirit and in truth we must imitate this self-emptying of the Lord by constantly descending along the path of humility and renunciation, by constantly seeking the last place, seeking the company of the least and the lost and by refusing to regard the priesthood as a career,” he said.

Ongtioco paid tribute to Fathers Marcelito Paez, Mark Anthony Ventura and Richmond Nilo who were killed in recent months in the line of duty as priests, and as those who have “imitated Christ to the point of shedding their blood.”

“The priests who have gone before us must have taken up their crosses, our very own Fathers Marcelito Paez, Mark Anthony Ventura and Richmond Nilo have imitated Christ to the point of shedding their blood. The cross is the altar where Christ offered his sacrifice, the altar where we offer ours should be no different,” the prelate said.

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This year’s PCNE focuses on the clergy and religious with the theme “Moved with compassion…feed the multitude” in line with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ declaration of the “Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.”

The annual gathering, which draws participants from all over the country, will be held from July 18 to 22. Lady Cherbette N. Agot and Pearl Anne M. Gumapos, with reports from Joselle Czarina S. de la Cruz 

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