A Boholano himself, no less than Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, extolled Bohol as â€œthe Ireland of the Philippinesâ€ for having produced a number of priests.
â€œBohol has been called â€œthe Ireland of the Philippinesâ€- -that is, of course, when Ireland still produced many priests, religious men and women and lay missionaries! Indeed, across seventy-five years, our Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary has nurtured and educated thousands of young people who have become priests, and the Tipasi have become committed lay leaders and successful in their fields of profession,â€ as Auzaâ€™s description of Bohol in his message during the testimonial dinner on Monday in Dagohoy Ballroom at the Bohol Tropics set for the 75thAnniversary of the Diocese of Tagbilaran the following day.
Auza also extolled the harmonious relationship of the Church and government in Bohol which could be instrumental in facing the challenges that beset society nowadays.
â€œIf both Church and State have at heart the common good that redounds to the good of every human person, then they easily see areas of collaboration. We only have to look around us, learn from the real situations of our fellow faithful and citizens, discern and act upon what is the best way to uplift them,â€ Auza added.
He mentioned a some problems that afflict families and society which include drugs and corruption; migration of parents in search of work, leaving their children behind at a time when they need them most; extreme poverty and economic exclusion; environmental degradation and food insecurity.
The Church and the State should collaborate in addressing these concerns, according to Auza.
â€œIf these are the challenges faced by the people, whose welfare is the shared responsibility of Church and State, then there is so much to do together: the rehabilitation of those who are addicted to drugs; the care of the prisoners;Â the solicitude for the children of our migrant workers, the support that our barrio folks need for better organization; the just and increasing demand for better education and health care; the noble task of assuring that the poor and those left behind are protagonists of their own destiny and active agents of their own integral human development,â€ Auza proposed.
The Diocese of Tagbilaran grew in 75 years of existence with milestones that shaped the atmosphere of Christianity in Bohol.
Auza traced history from the establishment of the Church in Bohol which started as part of the Archdiocese of Mexico until 1579 when the Diocese of Manila was created.
It â€œbecame part of the Diocese of Cebu since 1595, when the Ecclesiastical Province of Manila was created and Cebu was erected as one of the three new Dioceses, together with Nueva Segovia and Caceresâ€.
â€œSeventy-five years ago, the Church in Bohol came of age and spent its last day in the bosom of Cebu, because seventy-five years ago tomorrow, November 8, 1941, the Diocese of Tagbilaran was erected. Tagbilaran has been so fertile and productive that it took her only 45 years to give birth to a big baby called Talibon. Forty-five years in the life of the Church is a flash in the pan,â€ Auza cited.
The 75thÂ anniversary of the foundation of the Diocese of Tagbilaran celebrated yesterday â€œis an important milestone for Bohol and, in particular, for our Church in Bohol, and a cause for great joy and celebration, considering all the marvels the Lord has worked for us and through us during these last seventy-five yearsâ€, according to Auza.
Aside from being tagged as â€œthe Ireland of the Philippinesâ€, Bohol is also the niche of the Diocese that supports Catholic schools that have â€œeducated generations, helping sow seeds of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life and forming responsible government and civil society leadersâ€.
â€œOur missionary priests and laypeople, our religious men and women are all over the place, in Rome or in Madagascar, in Nigeria or in Haiti, running schools and hospitals, caring for the poorest and the most vulnerable, serving their Congregations as Superiors and Counselors, every time and everywhere giving a good name to our dear Bohol and proclaiming the Gospel, trying to erase from popular imagination the image of Bol-anons drinking from the toilet bowl created by you know whoâ€¦ May he rest in peace!â€ Auza said.
He also appreciated the thousands of Boholano overseas professionals and workers who made â€œmoribund parishes and faith communities alive againâ€
â€œPinoy choirs singing in almost abandoned ancient churches in Istanbul, Bol-anons filling up churches in Italy and Spain singingÂ Ginoo kaloy-i kami and Himaya sa Dios,Â Visayans dancing the Sinulog on Manila Boulevard in Jersey City, USA; Pinoys being ubiquitous at the United Nations Headquarters in New York doing all sorts of tasksâ€¦ and Filipinas forming Catholic families with their evangelized husbands in Japan, Switzerland and even as far away as Iceland.â€
Auza quoted a prominent Catholic journalist who â€œthinks that the universal Church is â€˜on the brink of a Filipino momentâ€™, having written that â€˜On any list of the most consequential Catholic nations today, the Philippines would easily finish in the top five, and thereâ€™s a good case to be made that itâ€™s #1. Itâ€™s the third largest Catholic nation on earth, and unlike its two larger peers, Brazil and Mexico, its levels of faith and practice remain robustâ€™â€.
He said the description of Filipino ex-pats sustaining the Catholic faith around the world applies toÂ â€œBohol and Boholanos specificallyâ€.
â€œThatâ€™s how far Bohol and Boholanos have come. Thatâ€™s how far our Diocese of Tagbilaran has ushered us and led us intoâ€¦ to the highest point that any local Church can aspire to become, namely, to define a â€œmoment,â€ to reach the high water mark in the life of the universal Church. But the Catholic journalist warned us: â€˜Today, the Catholic Church in the Philippines is in crisis,Â a crisis that is largely not self-inflicted nor forced into it by a secular society, but, according to the author, of the Churchâ€™s polarized reactions to our new national governmentâ€™â€, Auza cautioned.
He said that while he neither refute nor affirm the Catholic journalistâ€™s opinion, the latterâ€™s â€œpoint is worth our personal and collective reflectionâ€.
â€œWhat I must affirm is that any mature Church knows its place in society, its relationship with the State or Government, its responsibilities toward its clergy and faithful. If we think our Church in the Philippines is mature, if we know that we as a Church in Bohol possess that maturity, there is no need to panic nor to get nervous; there is only a place for composed tranquility, confident that we can fulfil our responsibilities the way our Church expects us,â€ Auza said.
And, if â€œthe State or the Government neither respects the boundaries nor understands nor accepts the principles that govern Church-State relationsâ€, Auza opined that â€œfor the society to live in peace and harmony, especially where a pluralistic society prevails like in our times, it is very important that there be a correct notion of the relationship between the political community and the Churchâ€.
In this line, he also emphasized that it is important to have â€œa clear distinction between the tasks which Christians undertake, individually or as a group, on their own responsibility as citizens guided by the dictates of a Christian conscience, and the activities which, in union with their pastors, they carry out in the name of the Churchâ€.
Auza shared the fundamental principle of Church-State relations that the Second Vatican Council teaches.
This includes the Pastoral Constitution â€˜Gaudium et Spesâ€™ which he quoted as affirming that: â€œThe Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified in any way with the political community nor bound to any political system. She is at once a sign and a safeguard of the transcendent character of the human personâ€.
He further quoted the Pastoral Constitution stating that â€œthe Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other. Yet both, under different titles, are devoted to the personal and social vocation of the same men [and women]. The more that both foster sounder cooperation between themselves with due consideration for the circumstances of time and place, the more effective will their service be exercised for the good of allâ€¦.The Church, for her part, founded on the love of the Redeemer, contributes toward the reign of justice and charity within the borders of a nation and between nations. By preaching the truths of the Gospel, and bringing to bear on all fields of human endeavor the light of her doctrine and of a Christian witness, she respects and fosters the political freedom and responsibility of citizens.â€
The Pastoral Constitution further states thatÂ â€œat all times and in all places, the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine, to exercise her role freely among men, and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it. In this, she should make use of all the meansâ€”but only thoseâ€”which accord with the Gospel and which correspond to the general good according to the diversity of times and circumstancesâ€.
â€œWhile faithfully adhering to the Gospel and fulfilling her mission to the world, the Church, whose duty it is to foster and elevate all that is found to be true, good and beautiful in the human community, strengthens peace among men for the glory of God,â€Auza quoted the Pastoral Constitution.
Calling for reflection, Auza asked if â€œthese fundamental tenets of our Churchâ€™s teachingâ€ have been observed by each one in the both the Church and the government on their â€œrespective specific missions and competencies, as well as that huge field in which we must collaborate, creatively and critically, for the good of the human person, who is both faithful and citizenâ€.
In facing the challenges in society that the Church and the government should collaborate.
â€œThis collaboration is what our Filipinos abroad expect. Thatâ€™s why so many faith-inspired Filipino groups abroad see the good in paying back for all the graces received by promoting initiatives here in Bohol and in other parts of the Philippines, in collaboration with local authorities,â€ according to Auza.
He emphasized that it is for the overall good of the society as a whole that the â€œChurch invests so much personnel and resources to schools, hospitals and other institutions with clear social purposes.
It is not only because the Church â€œis convinced of its God-given mission to elevate every human person to his or her fullest potential, but also because these institutions serve to foster the overall good of the society as a wholeâ€.
â€œThe Churchâ€™s calling is the cross, because it is the way of Christ, and it symbolizes its double vertical and horizontal calling: Vertical, because it must always tend towards Christ, towards eternal life: Horizontal, because it is mandated to love and to care for everyone. These two directions are inseparable: the vertical animates and inspires the horizontal; the horizontal incarnates and manifests the vertical,â€ Auza added.