by Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – Church leaders on Monday welcomed Pope Francis’ call to be simple and humble by ditching flashy cars.
Incoming Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said church leaders only accept things that are for the benefit of lay people.
“Kami ay nabubuhay para sa kapakanan ng ibang tao, kaya wala kami gagamitin na para sa aming sariling ginhawa sapagkat nung kami naging pari, niyakap na namin ang buhay ng sakripisyo. Kasama na rito ang hindi pag-aasawa, iwanan ang aming pamilya at iba pang sakripisyo (We entered the priesthood knowing that we will sacrifice a lot),” he said on the sidelines of the plenary assembly of the CBCP in Manila.
On Saturday (Sunday in Manila), Pope Francis gave another glimpse of his leadership style by saying it pained him to see priests driving expensive cars.
“It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this,” he said. “A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one…If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.”
During the Arroyo administration, several leaders of the Catholic church in the Philippines were criticized for asking money from the government so they could buy SUVs.
Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairperson Margarita Juico alleged former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo used state lottery funds to get support from church leaders.
Some admitted to having expensive cars, saying they used these vehicles to o go to far-flung areas. They were tagged later as the so-called “Pajero bishops”.
There has not been any update on the case, even after the Senate launched an investigation into the matter.
Some alleged, however, that several bishops still live in luxury.
Villegas said: “One of the principles we should follow is that we should not expose wounds without binding them. It’s like taking pictures of victims instead of rushing them to the emergency room. Make sure that if you expose the wounds of others, make sure that you have done something to bind them…so that the wounds become signs of hopes, signs of wellness in the future.”
Villegas will sit as head of the CBCP in December 2013.
Outgoing President and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said he will focus on a big Catholic event in 2016, which is expected to be attended by Pope Francis.
“We in the church, when we are given a position, it does not make us taller it just gives us longer hands so we could embrace more people. So when Archbishop Palma became president two years ago, he did not grow in height, he was not given a special chair, but the Lord gave him longer hands so that he could embrace more people beyond Cebu,” Villegas said.
‘CBCP president different from PH president’
He said people should look at the presidency of the CBCP differently.
He said it is unlike being the president of the Philippines.
“Ang president ng CBCP is like a coordinator of all the bishops, so the president does not set any agenda, the president does not even set the vision. We are all bishops and it is the bishops’ conference that sets the direction. The president is at the service of the conference. So you have to shift your paradigm because it’s not like the president of the school, or corporation, or government…”
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Villegas said “there goes my people I must follow them. So the president must follow the bishops.”