By Christian V. Esguerra
ON THE EVE of Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued the reminder that poverty, not politics, was the Filipino Everyman's most serious problem.
"The most immediate and urgent priority of the common Filipinos is their daily struggle to earn their livelihood," Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said in a statement titled "Lent: A Call to Transformation."
"Poverty, despite the professed development at the macro level, remains the heaviest burden the country bears," he said.
Lagdameo had earlier called for sobriety amid reports of a supposed coup attempt against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose alleged manipulation of the 2004 presidential election remains unresolved.
"To all parties concerned, we as shepherds appeal to you to be open to reason and respect truth and the rule of law and to avoid creating the atmosphere of belligerency -- because innocent people are likely to be involuntary victims of self interest he had said, adding:
"The situation is a challenge to magnanimously prove that your patriotism and concern for the poor and the suffering are of higher value than personal survival."
Lagdameo said the Christian message of the Lenten season -- an invitation to repentance -- was particularly significant in the light of the current political situation.
"It is a call to transformation," he said. "Considering the social, economic and political crises we are in, the vision of change and transformation becomes a growing passion and obsession."
Lagdameo also said the message of Jesus Christ rising from the dead on Easter Sunday, according to Catholic belief, should transcend the spiritual and result in a "transformation in our economic, social and political life."
"Lent as a call to transformation means that out of the repentance of believers in the Gospel, the slum dwellings are transformed to permanent shelters, the poor are given health benefits, the marginalized are offered liberating education, the exploited are given dignified employment and malnourished children sufficient food," he said.
Lagdameo described the transformation of society as "the fruit of repentance and reform of life."
'Truly moral society'
In even more concrete terms, Lagdameo said, a renewal of moral values should mean "converting the energies that one uses for graft and corruption into energies for better public service."
"We hope that from the 'ashes' of political crisis and corrupted institutions will resurrect a transformed nation, a truly moral society, built up in truth, justice, freedom and love," he said.
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