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!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Saint Valentine's Day

Many people in the English speaking world are not aware that our present celebration of Valentine's day and its relationship with romantic and erotic love is actually due to Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Parliament of Birds" also known with the older title "The Parliament of Fowls"

Chaucer is the first writer in literature to make a link between the martyr Valentine and marriage. He really "canonized" Valentine as the Patron Saint of Lovers! Here is a modern English translation of Chaucer's love poem.

And here is the famous line

"For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,"

From then on, Valentine was forever linked with Lovers.
But who is St Valentine? A Buddhist friend of mine has been enamored by the story of Valentine. She has done some reading and she told me that there are actually at least three Valentines and at most 14, all martyred for the Christian faith during Roman times. Traditionally the liturgical color for martyrs is red and so is for Valentine's day.

The Roman Church no longer has Valentine in its post 1969 calendar since the Church isn't sure of who among the 14 is to be commemorated. However there are three St Valentines we know some information about. One is the presbyter Valentine, another is a Bishop Valentine whose see is now in Terni, Italy and a soldier named Valentine who was beheaded in north Africa. These three Valentines were commemorated on Feb 14. While the  Greek Church commemorates the Valentines on July 30, Greeks often name their children as Valentine or Valentina if they were born on Feb 14!

The Anglican Communion still follows the older Roman Calendar and commemorates any of the 3 Valentines on Feb 14. The Roman Catholic Church never removed Valentine from the martyrology and thus lovers can still ask his intercession. However the feast is no longer in the general calendar but are on local calendars, especially in Italy.

Here is a collect for St Valentine as said by some Anglicans

"Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You gave Saint Valentine the courage to witness to the gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. Help us to endure all suffering for love of you, and to seek you with all our hearts; for you alone are the source of life and love. Grant that we may have the courage and love to be strong witnesses of your truth to our friends and family and to the whole world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

In the Philippines, this saint's feast day has been so commercialized and worse objectifies people as either the dated or the dateless or just focuses on sex! Well of course some people have found true love and many are still searching for it. The truth of St Valentine's Day is none of us isn't loved! We are all challenged to return this love. And in the case of any of the 14 Valentines, they returned this love with their lives.

So All ye Holy 14 Valentines, pray for us to God!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


The third phase of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) will meet on May 17 to 27, 2011 at the Monastery of Bose in northern Italy. According to Vatican Radio, the theme for ARCIC III is on Church and Communion. ARCIC has been meeting since 1970 as a result of ecumenical declarations from Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey.

The first ARCIC focused on the Eucharist and how Catholics and Anglicans understood this. The resulting statement was broadly Catholic but the Vatican sent its reservations. The second ARCIC came out with statements on the ministry of the Roman Pontiff as a universal primate and the role of the Virgin Mary. However the Anglican difficulties on the Marian dogmas and Anglican rejection of papal authority came to the fore.  As for the universal primacy of the Bishop of Rome, ARCIC suggested that Anglicans and Roman Catholics receive this primacy even before corporate reunion is achieved. Pope John Paul II told the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Robert Runcie that this primacy now exists over the Anglican Church even if the Anglicans refuse to receive it.

When Anglicans decided to ordain women as priests, this signified a departure from Apostolic order as the Eastern Churches (Orthodox and Oriental) never ordained women. The Orthodox prelates have always told the Anglicans that the ordination of women will result in an impaired communion. And in this they have been proven correct. The Roman Church strongly concurred much later in Cardinal Walter Kasper's address to the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

Women's ordination as priests led to the Anglican communion considering ordaining women as bishops. This is considered by the Orthodox and Roman Catholics as even a further departure from Apostolic order and tradition. Women's ordination has effectively stopped  Orthodox theological and ecumenical discussion with the Anglicans. The Roman Church continued with ARCIC II while  recognizing that corporate reunion was impossible.  When the American Episcopal Church ordained an openly practicing homosexual as bishop, Pope John Paul II suspended ARCIC meetings. The Orthodox have stuck to their original decision.

Thus ARCIC III meets in a ecumenical landscape that is vastly changed. For instance I believe that there is no Anglican Communion to speak of but rather two Anglican Communions. The Anglican Ordinariatres remains as a talking point in ARCIC III even if the Roman Catholics and Anglicans say they won't talk about it!

These statements from the Roman Catholic side by Msgr Mark Langham tells us really the limits of institutional ecumenism

How will this work be received by the rest of the Church?
This is an important question. Ecumenical dialogues have never seen themselves as an end in themselves but part of a bigger process which involves reception at grass roots level, at leadership level and in the way the two churches work and pray together. 

How will the new Ordinariate affect your work?
We’ve always said the path of traditional ecumenical dialogue is different from that of individual or group conversion.

My take is that ecumenism at the grass roots level will be heard and that is at the root of the Ordinariate. Rome just took years to respond! The quote of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman remains loud and clear. "The voice of the faithful will be heard!"