That, in brief, is the history of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – a body that is vibrant, willing to learn, confront, suffer and change, a body that leads, builds up, engages, commits, prays and serves. Its fifty-year history sketched out above, if it be summed up even more succinctly, may be described in terms of transformation: from a CWO that was mainly defensive of the legitimate institutional interests to a CBCP that serves in the integral liberation of society; from a generally silent CWO to a prophetic CBCP in the face of sociopolitical and economic disarrangement and injustice; from a CWO that viewed the Church as a social institution to a CBCP that understands the Church as a Communion of the People of God; from a CWO that, it seemed, had answers to human problems to a CBCP that reads, listens to, and scrutinizes the “signs of the times”; from a CWO that tended to pronounce general moral principles to a CBCP that speaks of and judges the morality of the concrete sociopolitical and economic actions and situations; from a CWO that was inclined to focus morality to problems of sex, birth control and smutty films to a CBCP that, true to the tradition of the first bishop of the Philippines, Bishop Domingo de Salazar, OP, protests against, denounces and condemns violation of human rights, social injustices and various forms of violence to the poor; from a CWO that saw involvement in the social order as part of pre-evangelization to a CBCP that considers transformation of the social order as constitutive dimension of its mission; from a CWO that looked at the work of the laity as part of the apostolate of the Hierarchy to a CBCP that recognizes the lay apostolate as springing from the lay person’s dignity as baptized Christians; from a CWO that viewed the laity as ecclesia discens (the learning Church) to a CBCP that respects them as partners in the task of integral evangelization; from a CWO that tried to renew the social order from the top to a CBCP that regards the lay persons as co-workers in the task of that renewal; from a CWO that was engaged in social charity to a CBCP that is involved in total development and liberation. It is not an exaggeration to say that the CBCP, looked at from this angle in its 50 years of existence, to a significant degree served its major objectives and demonstrated its relevance to the changing times and the concrete historical experiences of the people it continues to serve in leadership.
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