WE ARE BROTHERS AND SISTERS!
CBCP Statement on the Orlando Tragedy
The scene is becoming disturbingly frequent in the United States — lifeless bodies strewn all over the place, and an assailant gone berserk who, by brazen thoughtlessness, changes lives and communities forever. With the families of those who lost their lives at Orlando, Florida, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines grieves. We, bishops of the Philippine Church, unite ourselves with those who mourn in prayer. But a tragedy like this challenges us to ask ourselves how we can all, not Americans alone, become a better people after having recovered from our grief.
First, this was a hate-crime — the murder of persons because of disgust for their sexual orientation. Bearing in the depth of his or her soul the image of the Creator, no human person should ever be the object of disgust. While we may have reasons to disagree with sexual preferences, or reprove certain forms of sexual activity, this can never justify hatred, let alone, murder of another human being.
Regrettably, this tragedy occurs in the midst of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. But this grim event merely underscores how right Pope Francis was in convoking this year as a year of mercy. The heartlessness with which so many were cut down in their youth or in the prime of life only makes clear how much the world needs mercy. As important as it is to be right, it is far more important to be merciful!
Second, we can and should never reconcile ourselves with violence in society — whether this be the violence of lawless elements, the violence of the self-righteous, the violence of vigilante groups, or the violence of government. Violence leaves only mourning, and loss, and bitterness in its wake. We cannot and should not accept a society that tolerates and perhaps even foments forms of violence, even if this should be in the name of restoring law and order.
Third, while the whole world is rightly shocked by the brutality of the tragedy at Orlando, from this darkness we see the light that Pope Francis holds out to us through his exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. No matter that we may disapprove of the actions, decisions and choices of others, there is absolutely no reason to reject the person, no justification for cruelty, no reason for making outcasts of them. This is a project on which we, in the Philippines, must seriously embark for many are still forced to the peripheries because the norms of “decent society” forbid association with them. Pope Francis sternly warns us that this cannot be Christian. We must continue the dialogue and the conversation with them over the things about which we disagree, but this dialogue must always be an encounter of brothers and sisters, an encounter of friends in the Lord.
We your bishops therefore urge school administrators and youth leaders to be particularly vigilant about cases of bullying, ostracism and harassment. We urge government to educate the nation in the ways of the respect for all life. We call on all Christians to show the world that our fidelity to Christ and our citizenship in his kingdom are of far more importance than whatever else may keep us in disagreement.
May you grant the fallen, Merciful Father, the peace and the light of your Kingdom, and may you grant us, who must continue on our pilgrimage, the wisdom to move from the darkness of grief to the light by which we recognize in each other the sons and daughters you adopted in Your Son, Jesus Christ.
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, June 13, 2016
(SGD)+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan