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Patriarch meets Archbishop Tagle of Manila

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Just weeks after his appointment, the young Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila, the Most Rev. Luis Antonio Tagle, went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was an occasion to explore with him the issue of pastoral care for migrants, particularly those from the Philippines.

President of the Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, a member of the International Theological Commission, Bishop of Imus, Cavite since 2001, the Most Rev. Luis Antonio Tagle was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI metropolitan Archbishop of Manila on October 13th.  A few weeks after his appointment, he visited the Holy Places in the Holy Land with 100 pilgrims including members of the Philippine Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcherof Jerusalem.

It presented the opportunity to reach out to the many Filipino migrants through the Latin Patriarchate and discuss in depth their pastoral care with His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Father David Neuhaus, SJ, Patriarchal Vicar for the Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel and Coordination for Pastoral Care of Migrant Workers and Asylum Seekers. “With Archbishop Tagle, we talked about the reality of Filipinos settled here, seeking ways to better assist in their spiritual, religious, educational needs,” Father Neuhaus said.  “The Archbishop desires to be part of the pastoral care for Filipino migrants and a continuing dialogue and pastoral collaboration between the Latin Patriarchate and the Archdiocese of Manila.”

The number of Christian migrants in the Holy Land continues to increase in the last 20 years.   There is now a significant population of Israeli citizens who are non-Arab Christians, who unlike the Arabs, are fully assimilated into the Israeli Jewish majority. Filipinos follow this trend. Today 40,000 are immersed in the Hebrew-speaking environment through their work and their children’s school.

Their presence is a new challenge for the local church which is dealing with thousands of children of migrant workers who speak Hebrew as their first language and who are under the influence of mainstream society.  To strengthen their faith, the local church has developed and teaches Catechism in Hebrew.  “To express our faith in a language which is the original language of the Old Testament, but has never been used as Christian language is very exciting,” stated Father Neuhaus in an interview during the recent CELRA (Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Arab Region) meeting (October11-13) in Rome, in connection with the challenges posed by the arrival of a new Catholic population in Israel. “It’s a key moment for the Catholic Church of Israel, both for working with migrant communities and also for the efforts of reconciliation with the Jewish community.”

At the same time, like all churches in the Middle East, the Catholic Church is facing an uncertain future for its local communities, according to the article: “In the Holy Land, a changed Christian world” (click here to read the article) or through the Hebrew-speaking Vicariate website (click here).  It is reported that the number of indigenous Arab Christians, which is 110 000 has been stagnant, without diminishing it has not increased either. Many young people leave the country for the West as they are caught between Jews and Muslims in an ongoing conflict, and experiencing the feeling of abandonment that is shared by Israeli Arabs.

Archbishop Tagle also had a private meeting in Bethlehem with the Apostolic Delegate and Nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco who was Apostolic Nuncio in the Philippines from 1999 to 2006.

During the pilgrimage, Archbishop Tagle who is a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher received his pilgrim shell from the Patriarch.  Knights and Ladies of the Philippine Lieutenancy who also received their pilgrim shells were: Ambassador Jesus Tambunting, Mrs. Margarita Tambunting, Mrs. Marilen Espiritu and Atty. Rene Banez.   Family members and friends of the Knights and Ladies, groups from the Jesuit Communications in Manila and the Diocese of Imus were among the pilgrims.

The Archdiocese of Manila was established as a suffragan diocese of Mexico on February 6, 1579 by Pope Gregory XIII by virtue of the Apostolic Constitution “Illius fulti praesido,” following the first successful missionary efforts.

Today, the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Manila has a population of 3,296,000, Catholics are 2,884,000, priests 642, permanent deacons 3, religious 1,481.  Archbishop Tagle succeeds His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales who succeeded His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin.

Amelie La Hougue

 

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