Philippine Bishops Apologize for Church's Sins Against Native Peoples
"We suppressed the indigenous spirit. We ask for pardon"
By Edwin C. Mercurio
Replicating Pope John Paul II’s Day of Pardon in 2000 when he sought forgiveness for the Catholic Church’s sins against the Jews, protestants, indigenous peoples and women, ten Philippine Catholic bishops asked forgiveness for the church’s sins against Philippine tribes at a recent “Day of Pardon” mass in Baguio City, the nation’s Summer capital.
The church “failed to imitate Jesus who worked and accepted all cultures,” Bishop Sergio Utleg of Laoag told indigenous people who gathered for the October 12 Mass at Baguio City Cathedral. “We ask the indigenous people for pardon,” Bishop Utleg said in his homily.
“We demonized the rituals. You played gongs and were penalized (by the early missionaries). We suppressed the indigenous spirit. What have we done in the name of the mainstream church? We ask for Pardon.”
“Unlike the old days of the early missionaries who forced indigenous peoples to turn their backs on their own culture, we can now express our faith in their language, through patterns, signs and symbols.”
The “Day of Pardon” is part of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) event which explore the theme “Healing for Solidarity. Asking forgiveness for sins against indigenous peoples.”
Baguio City Vicar-General Rev. Andres Cosalan, Jr. in a news story carried by ucanews.com said inculturation could heal the church’s “sins” against native peoples. Rev. Cosalan, Jr. is a member of the Ibaloi indigenous group in Benguet province. He made his comment to mark Tribal Filipino Sunday, an annual event celebrated by the Catholic church every first Sunday of October to honour the country’s indigenous community.
The bishops took part in “bodong” (peace ritual involving exchange of peace tokens) practiced by Kalinga and indigenous peoples and various tribes in Northern Philippines. The “bodong” items exchanged included a bible, a bishop’s ceremonial staff, a rosary in exchange for a warrior’s shield, a spear and a woven cloth.
Bishop Utleg in his “Day of Pardon” homily, committed the clergy to supporting indigenous peoples’ fight against mining interests and logging ventures that damage ancestral lands.
“This is part of the church’s solidarity with indigenous people,” he said.
Ucanews reports that 1.2 million indigenous peoples in the nation’s north collectively called Igorots continue to face the prospect and dangers of environmental and ecosystems damage to their ancestral territory due to extractive and subsurface mining. The Philippine Mines and Geosciences Bureau has listed 110 applications to explore mineral resources in the nation’s northern region.
Sources: Maurice Malanes, Ucanews, CBCP