Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The End of a Filipino Schism? Catholics and Aglipayans together

Something unimaginable before. Aglipayan and Roman Catholic parish priests sharing the altar and saying the Lord's Prayer! From MannyFeastation's blog

From the Anglo Catholic blog, we read that the Anglo-Lutherans have decided to petition to join the Ordinariate. This is indeed a surprise since the Lutherans are not historically Anglican (even if they have close relationships with the Anglican Communion). The petition is also significant since it surprisingly shows the flexibility of a Roman  Apostolic Constitution. It is of immense significance for the Filipino Church since it paves a possible way to resolve a more than a century old schism between the Roman Church and the Philippine Independent Church or the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) more popularly known as the Aglipayan Church.

The history of the IFI is well narrated in the church's website. The church is the only living link with the Philippine Revolution of 1896. One reason for the Philippine Revolution is that ecclesiastical appointments were dominated by foreign clergy. The revolutionists demanded that all church appointments especially in parishes be given to Filipino priests. Filipino priests have been ordained since the 1700s and many had proven to be good pastors but they never been appointed as parish priests but just coadjutors. Notable among them is Fr Jose Burgos who had doctorates in theology and canon law but never was raised to the episcopate. In the Revolution Fr Gregorio Aglipay became Military Vicar general. He later became the first Supreme Bishop of the IFI.

With the change in sovereignty from Spanish to American, and the crushing of the nascent Philippine Republic, the curacies vacated by the Spanish friars were replaced by Anglophone priests. In 1902 Leo XIII issued the Apostolic Constitution "Quae Mari Sinico" which reorganized the Roman Church in the Philippines.  Through this constitution, Americans and Europeans filled the diocesan posts vacated by the Spanish, established new dioceses, and elevated the first Filipinos to the episcopate. However the historic sees were still occupied by foreigners  It was only much later that these sees were filled in by Filipinos and the first Filipino Archbishop of Manila was enthroned after Philippine independence in 1946. This added to the bitter acrimony between the IFI and the Roman Church for more than a century.

Quae Mari Sinico allowed the Roman Church to reform and thus meet the challenges of the IFI schism and Protestant proselytization.  The IFI proceeded to reform the Latin liturgy such as having the Mass in the vernacular. But the IFI veered towards a Unitarian direction under the first Supreme Bishop Gregorio Aglipay and this precipitated schisms among the IFI now called Aglipayans.

Thus the demand of the IFI for Filipinos to head the Filipino Church went largely unheeded until at the time of the Second Vatican Council after which the Mass was celebrated in the Filipino vernaculars. But after Vatican II most of the dioceses were headed by Filipinos. Today the Filipino Church is headed by Filipinos.

The IFI today remains resolutely nationalist but entered into a concordat with the Episcopal Church which allowed the IFI to train in Episcopal church seminaries. The PECUSA bestowed the historic succession on the IFI bishops in the late 1940s. The PECUSA also had a large influence in reforming the IFI's Mass books. The IFI Mass books have been strongly influenced by the BCP.

After Vatican II IFI ecumenical contacts with the Roman Church commenced and at a parish level there are a lot of ecumenical engagement between Roman Catholics and Aglipayans especially on social, environmental and political issues. It is not uncommon for an Aglipayan to attend Catholic Mass if he/she can't get to an Aglipayan church. Confrontations between Aglipayanos and Romanos are now much a thing of the past. In Pandacan district of Manila last January, once a site of confrontation between the Catholics and Aglipayans, we see something unimaginable a few years back, two separated communities believing in the same Catholic faith in one religious procession.

Even more unimaginable, Aglipayan and Roman clergy blessing the faithful together.
However while discussions on a reconciliation with the Roman Church started after Vatican II, there has not been much progress on this front. However some in the Roman Church especially in the Ilocano heartland of the IFI have revisited the reasons for the schism and the Aglipayans have warmly responded. Truly it is time for dialogue, prayer and theological reflection.

Will Anglicanorum Coetibus, once especially designed for Anglicans unexpectedly pave the way to end this 109 year old schism? With the Lutherans using the AC in their quest to reconcile with Rome, it is very possible that the Aglipayans and the Roman Catholics in the Philippines will eventually recognize the need to heal the schism of the past and come into communion, with AC as the way. This won't be an easy path but with common prayer, a commonality of a strong Catholic patrimony and the Filipino's ecumenical orientation, this should be an easier walk than expected. The Aglipayans and Roman Catholics have a strong devotion to the Holy Child. Will they allow the Child and His Mother to lead them?

I am beginning to believe that the Holy Spirit has more uses for Anglicanorum Coetibus than the CDF in the Vatican and Anglicans everywhere ever imagined!



  1. i am wondering.. why do you seek communion with the catholic church when you think all of your teachings are right and the other party's the same are otherwise? what do hope to achieve in the end? do you think you will not even have a hard time defending your own codes regarding abolished celibacy and rejected spiritual authority of the pope? or, do you really think that the 2000+ yr-old church, founded by Jesus Christ himself, will simply bow down to your feet and convert at your very glance? think about that before you sleep today...

    this, is merely a heads-up... because i can see now that you will be asked about all these questions in a very near future. it may very well be from your own people or by anybody else around you and your circle of influence. i hope you will do the right thing to do!

    thank you for your time now...

    i sincerely hope that you can just simply drop your sword, forget about your pride, and preach to all your people instead to convert to the very church you are trying very hard to commune with now and leave your church and all it's "what have you" in history...

    May God bless you and your soul. Salve Regina!

  2. Unity between the IFI and the Catholic Church is so good an idea, however, I think it is bereft of possibility nowadays. Just recently,there were internal changes in Aglipayan practice and doctrines here in Mindanao which may endanger and block the prospect of eventual reunion. They now prohibit the holding of processions, they are slowly doing away with sacred images to the extent that their cathedral in Surigao has only an empty cross in their sanctuary without any images of the saints whatsoever. No more salubong, no more holy water, etc. I don't think this scenario is favorable to reunion. Let's continue to pray for them.


  3. Anglican Use Catholics or better yet Anglicanorum Catholics are in communion with Rome. Our teachings are right since they are also the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church whose unity is safeguarded by the Bishop of Rome. Also the Catholic Church did not ask us to give up our patrimony as long as this doesn't contradict her teachings. The Catholic Church does not bow down to us. The Church in all her charity accepts us.

  4. Yes, I was told that some sectors in the IFI have somewhat become "low church". This has also alarmed some Episcopalians I know. The IFI and the ECP are in full communion. I hope that the low church group of the IFI realize that part of their nationalist identity was to inculturate authentically Catholic practice as Filipino. There is nothing really wrong with that.

  5. The Catholic Church has always been a big, diverse, vibrant church, but sometimes that could not be seen in a local area, such as in parts of the Western Church, or Latin Rite Church. For instance, celibacy has been a rule for centuries in the Western Catholic Church, but it has never been a universal rule across all parts of the Catholic Church.

    What is exciting about Anglican Use Catholics, which have existed now for over 30 years, is that it introduces diversity to many areas that have only known one liturgy of the Catholic Church, one expression of the faith. Combined with the internet and modern communication technology, people are now able to see the great diversity and breadth of the Church.

    It is my hope that since many (but maybe not all) IFI members share the same theological beliefs, that they will see this diversity and realize that full communion with the Pope does not mean liturgical or spiritual uniformity. That full communion, that unity, is possible. The continued schisms in Christianity is not God's will. He wants us to be unified, to be one body. It is my hope and prayer that Anglicanorum Coetibus will be one part of bringing about His desire for His children.

  6. The reason why those in the "Anglican Use" left their church and seek full communion with the Catholic Church is not simply liturgical but doctrinal. Those who belong now to the personal ordinariate are those who could not accept the deviation of the Anglican Church, such as women priests, openly gay bishops and the like. Now in the case of the IFI, the fact that they practice the ordination of women means that they cannot be in full communion with the Catholic Church. Why? because in communion there are 3 important bonds, namely, doctrine, sacrament and jurisdiction. If one of these three is missing, it means that there is no possibility of full communion.

  7. There is indeed much work to be done to bring about the unity of all Christians, and given that human beings are flawed, fallen, sinful creatures, that is unlikely to occur completely. But one can hope and pray.

    As Anonymous and Ben have both pointed out, the IFI and Anglicanism have very similar histories, including both coming out of nationalist desires to free themselves and their churches from control by foreigners.

    Therefore could the provisions of both the Pastoral Provision from 30 years ago and 2009's "Anglicanorum Coetibus" be used to help bring about unity between the IFI, or parts of it, and the Catholic Church? I think that is an open question. Certainly, Vatican II, the Pastoral Provision, and Anglicanorum Coetibus, among other documents and actions of the Catholic Church, has helped ecumenicalism, has helped bring Christians including the IFI and the Catholic Church closer together. Full communion eludes us at the moment but the Holy Ghost is powerful. Maybe it will happen. It is not impossible.

    A couple of minor corrections, quibbles, clarifications, if people will indulge me:

    -- Anglican Use is the proper common name of a Use of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. It has existed for about 30 years. There are well-established Anglican Use parishes with Anglican Use priests within the Catholic Church, but only in the United States. I don't think that it is correct to put quotes around it or to be modified with "so-called".

    -- Anglican Use Catholics and their priests are already in full communion and have been for years. Many indeed have grown up in AU parishes and have never left any church. There are other Anglicans, and Lutherans, who have applied to be members of the new Ordinariates (there will be a total of four within about a year).

    -- Anglicans leave the Anglican Communion or Continuum churches as the case may be often over issues of authority. The issues mentioned above -- e.g. an all-male priesthood and ethical sexual relations -- are incidental, proximate causes, not the fundamental, root cause.


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