The Philippines for Christ:

Time to Launch a New Evangelization

A Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine Hierarchy


To the Catholic People of the Philippines:

Grace and Peace in our Lord.

Next year we shall celebrate the fourth centennial of the evangelization of the Philippines.  On that subject and on the lessons it suggests We addressed a pastoral letter to you on February 2, 1964.

The memory of the evangelization of the Philippines compels us to consider how well the work which was begun on that happy day four hundred years ago is being carried out now.  And when we reflect upon this question we are met by the sad truth that the Gospel is now not reaching millions of our Catholics, or is reaching them in a very inadequate manner.

According to statistics, over 70% of the Catholic children in public schools receive no religious instruction.  That is alarming enough, but when one considers that the 30% who do receive religious instruction, in many cases receive very little, the picture is even more alarming.

There are several reasons for this.  But, whatever the reasons, we must add that, under the present Government provisions, religious instruction will always suffer in comparison to other subjects in the curriculum of our public schools, simply because religion is not a required subject.

Pedagogical reasons, let alone human psychology, particularly of the young pupils, indicate quite clearly that, all other things being equal, a required subject in the curriculum stands always to gain over one that is not required.

On the other hand, what of those who receive no religious instruction in the public school, and what of the half of the student population which drops all schooling after the fourth grade?  It is to be feared that most of them receive no instruction at all at home or in the parish, or if they do, it is very inadequate.

And finally — and there is danger of forgetting them — there are the adults, the end-product of the conditions we have just described.  Many of our grown-up Catholics are almost completely ignorant of their faith.  They cling to it with a tenacity that is edifying but they are missing much of its richness and beauty and one result is that they are easy victims of any persuasive speaker who happens along with a new religious or social gospel.

In the face of this discouraging situation, We hasten to add that We do recognize fully that there is much truly wonderful work being done, and that there is much heroic generosity being manifested by our Catholics in many places.    For those Catholics the Bishops have only praise and gratitude, and We urge them to continue and improve their zealous apostolate.

The sad conditions described do not exist because your bishops are insensitive to Our duty or are not eager to make the efforts required to correct them.  On the contrary, the needs of the flock weigh heavily upon Us.  But two things stand in the way of a remedy, namely, lack of personnel and lack of funds.  And it is to meet these two needs that We now turn to the  faithful for assistance.

To care for that great multitude of Catholics who receive no sufficient religious formation, the whole Catholic people must be enlisted.  A systematic campaign must be instituted to reach all who need religious instruction.  Nor should anyone protest that this is an impossible task.  The lack of priests must be supplied for by zealous laymen and lay women.

We have adopted as motto for our fourth centennial celebration: “The Philippines for Christ”.  There is no better way of achieving this objective than by an efficient and sound religious instruction for every Filipino.

For this it will be necessary that all our Catholic organizations take an enthusiastic interest in the work and, in a manner compatible with the constitutions, participate in it.  It is in these organizations that many of our most zealous Catholics are found, and hence, it is to these organizations especially that we must look for co-workers to implement this work.

The Catholic schools are already rendering excellent service in catechetical teaching.  But they should  ask themselves first of all, whether they are doing all they should be doing for their own students; and secondly, whether they are doing all that they can do for others who have not the good fortune to attend Catholic schools; and finally, whether they are instilling in their pupils an apostolic spirit which will remain with them after they finish school,  keep them zealous for religious instruction, and make them loyal helpers of their bishops and parish priests.

What has been said up this point considers mainly the quantitative aspect of the problem.  But it would be a mistake to think that anyone can teach religion or even, that any informed Catholic can do so.  Certainly we would not admit any such principle in education in other disciplines.  It is not more valid in religious instruction.

Therefore, it is necessary to set up a permanent system of teacher formation.  For what We have in mind is not merely to bring the uninstructed in contact with any catechist, but with a trained teacher in religion, well informed about the faith and well prepared in pedagogical method.

Obviously, this can only be the result of careful planning.  It is desirable to establish a higher institute of catechetics, not so much to train catechists as to train those who will train catechists.  In this institute, priests, religious, laymen and lay women will study catechtical developments in the Church and be formed in the most effective techniques.  Thus prepared they will return to the dioceses and establish institutes for the training of catechists, or provide expert personnel and assistance for the excellent institutes which already exist in many places.

This instruction will be carried out not only by this personal catechetical apostolate, but also by an effective use of the so-called mass media.  We wish to recognize the work being done in this respect by the Catholic press, Catholic radio stations, Catholic radio and television programs and Catholic bookstores.  However, it is imperative that a wider and more effective use be made of these modern facilities.

The Second Vatican Council in its Decree on the Media of Social Communication says:

• “The  Church recognizes that  these  media,  if properly used can be of great service to mankind, since they  contribute to  men’s  entertainment  and  instruction  as  well  as  to  the spread  and  support  of  the  Kingdom of God.  …The Catholic Church,  since  it  was  founded  by  Christ  our Lord to bring salvation to  all men, and thus is obliged to preach the Gospel, considers  it  one  of  its  duties  to announce the good news of salvation with the help of the media of social communication…  All the  children of the Church should join in a common work to make effective  use  of  the  media  of  social communication without delay and with the greatest effort in various apostolic efforts, as circumstances and conditions  demand.” (AAS LVI (1964) pp. 145, 146, 149)

These media constitute a providential instrument for the discharge of our duty towards the souls that are starving for the Gospel.  How in the concrete this is to be accomplished is too lengthy a subject to be treated here.  However, the national office, the establishment of which the same Decree enjoins, will issue pertinent suggestions.

The same Second Vatican Council has indicated another effective means for the spread of the knowledge of Christ, namely, the Liturgy.  In the Decree on the Liturgy, the Sacred Council recalls that when Christ sent out His Apostles, His intention was that

• “By preaching  the Gospel to every creature, they might proclaim  that  the  Son  of God, by His death and ressurection, had  freed  us from the power of Satan, and brought us into the Kingdom of His Father.  His purpose  also was that they might accomplish the work of salvation which they were proclaiming, by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves.”  (AAS LVI (1964) 100)

It is therefore the work of the Liturgy to give living realization to the Gospel preached.  Thus, preaching and Liturgy are two facets of the Church’s single mission, to be Christ to the world.  Consequently, the Liturgy by reenacting the mysteries of our Lord’s life and bringing the faithful themselves to live these mysteries keeps alive and enlightens the truth of the Gospel.

To carry out this apostolate of instruction by catechism, by the social media and by the liturgical movement, active participation by the laity is indispensable.  One of the characteristic notes of our contemporary Church is insistence on the importance of the laity.  Though the apostolate of the laity has always been an important force in the Church, our times for many reasons demand a greatly increased activity on their part in the work of the Hierarchy.

His Holiness Pope Paul VI said recently:

• “The Hierarchy itself today calls on the laity to cooperate with  it.  It  is  no  longer  exclusive,  nor  jealous — in  truth it never was — but  the  appeal of the Hierarchy  is overwhelming.  Come with us — the Hierarchy says — we will  search for ways to coordinate our work.”  (The Pope Speaks 9, 1964 p. 178)

To borrow again the words of our reigning Pontiff, “We, your Pastors need the laity to ‘lengthen the arms of the Priests, which do not reach into every sector and which do not suffice for all his labors’.” (ibid. p.177)

Beyond personnel there is another need: funds.  Any satisfactory movement to promote religious instruction in the quantity and quality that the situation demands is obviously going to entail expenses.  But We are confident that the generosity of the Catholic people will not refuse this challenge.  Since there is question not of a passing event or a temporary effort but of a permanent system, permanent financing will also be required.  Catholics must be ready to make regular generous contributions.  Among the many claims already made upon their slim finances, surely there are some which must be considered of less importance than the religious instruction of our Filipino Catholics, especially of our children.  A fraction of what is spent upon amusements would amply finance the catechetical work We contemplate.

Surely the sublimity of the task will inspire all to make great sacrifices.  Faculties will be needed to staff the institutes; teachers to give the religious instruction; expert personnel for the employment of the mass media; all will be called upon to contribute time, energy and money.

We have stressed the human factors of the problem.  We have not forgotten what must remain the two most important instruments of success.  The first of these is the example of our Catholic people.  If our children see their elders living the faith, especially if they see their parents in their home practising charity, justice, sound piety, faith, obedience to the Church’s law, zeal for Catholic Action, if they see them regular at Mass and the Sacraments, the task of the teachers will be lightened.

And finally, like all spiritual works our progress for success depends on fervent prayer.  Our Lord Himself has told us this:

• “The  harvest  indeed  is  great but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send forth laborers into his vineyard.”  (Matt. 9, 36-38)

It seems hardly necessary to point out how pleasing to God is this work of religious instruction.  St. Pius X said in writing on this subject:

• If assuredly the alms with which we relieve the needs of the  poor  are  highly  praised  by  our  Lord,  how  much  more precious  in  His eyes, then will be the zeal and labor expended in teaching  and admonishing, by which we provide not for the passing  needs of  the body but for the eternal profit of the soul.  Nothing  surely  is  more desirable, nothing more acceptable to Jesus  Christ,  the  Saviour  of  souls, Who  testifies of Himself through  Isaias “To  bring  good  news to  the poor He has sent me”.    (Encyclical   “Acerbo  Nimis”,   Apr.  15,   1905,   ASS XXXVIII (1904-5) pp. 613-625)

And yet when we say the work is pleasing to God, we would not wish to imply that we are dealing here with a work that is merely an optional spiritual devotion.  In the sermon previously referred to, our reigning Pontiff, Pope Paul VI said:

• “It  is  necessary to  remake Christian society; it is necessary to rewaken  it,  to  be  aware  that  we  are  responsible!  This  is a frightening  word…  We  are  responsible  for our times, for the life of our brothers, and we are responsible before our Christian conscience.  We   are   responsible   before   Christ,   before   the Church and before history; we are responsible before the face of God.”  (1.c. p. 176)

The Philippines is extolled as the only Catholic country in the Orient.  Happily, this is true in many aspects.  But, unfortunately, also because of this privileged position many of our Catholic fellow-countrymen are led into a state of deplorable complacency, seemingly unaware of the very ignorance with which they so proudly embrace the Faith.  We cannot let this lamentable situation go on.  The gift of faith alone is not sufficient for a complete Christian life.  The teachings of Christ must be learned, and therefore they must be taught to all.  And the remedy lies in our realizing more than ever before the responsibility of everyone to dispel the clouds of religious ignorance from our 7,000 isles!

We are the “People of God”, called to a close union of all in Christ.  Given the new commandment, the love of one another, the People of God must share their spiritual gifts and apostolic labors.  They have for their purpose the establishment of the Kingdom of God.  They have the duty of professing their faith before men, of being witnesses in defending and spreading it.

Surely, a Catholic will never wish to escape this responsibility who recalls the words Christ will say to the just on the day of the Last Judgement:  “Whatever you did to the least of these my brethren, you did to me.  Come ye blessed of my Father”.

St. Pius X, to whom religious instructions was so dear that even as Pope he continued to give it personally to the children of the Vatican in order to test his famous Catechism, in concluding his letter on religious instruction said:  “Permit us to close this letter by addressing to you these words of Moses:  ‘If any man be on the Lord’s side let him join with me!’” (1.c.)

And we say the same to you.  If any man be on the Lord’s side, if any man value his Christian vocation, let him join with us.  Four hundred years ago the evangelization of the Philippines was begun.  This anniversary is a suitable time to launch a new evangelization.

“Behold now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.  We exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6,2)”  The memory of the grace we received so long ago surely will not allow us to remain insensitive while we see multitudes of our fellow Filipino Catholics losing that divine gift through lack of new laborers in the Vineyard to bring them the good tidings.  Then, indeed, shall we truly have a “Philippines for Christ”.

Given in Manila, on the 8th day of December, 1964, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

For the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines:




Archbishop of Cebu

President, CWO Administrative Council



The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines

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The Philippines for Christ: Time to Launch a New Evangelization