Cardinal Tagle to youth: Sorry for bullying, lies by elders

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle apologized to the youth for bullying, violence, and lies by elders, as he urged faith in the Child Jesus, who can transform "eerie silent nights" into "holy nights."

"To the youth, we elders ask pardon if the world we are bequeathing to you is darkened by toxic falsehood, violence, bullying, vices, greed, and corruption. Please do not swallow or inhale this toxicity. Jesus the Child is with you," Tagle said in his Christmas message issued on Monday, December 24. 

Nine days earlier, at the start of the traditional Simbang Gabi (Dawn Masses) in preparation for Christmas, Tagle had denounced bullying and abuse of power – prompting Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo to defend Duterte even if the cardinal did not name anyone.

In his Christmas message, Tagle also pointed out that 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the popular Christmas carol Silent Night, "first sung in a village church in Austria on Christmas Eve 1818."

"During the time of Jesus up to our contemporary time, some nights have become moments of ominous silence. Crimes and evil deeds are often plotted and executed in the frightening silence of the night. The people who suffer and are continuously threatened and harassed live in endless silent nights," Tagle said.

"But those silent nights are not holy nights," he continued. "The Child Jesus transformed eerie silent nights into holy nights by pouring on us 'love's pure light.' Pure love makes nights bright and holy because it comes from God. Only God can love authentically and absolutely."

Villegas: Stand up bravely for the Lord!

In his own Christmas message, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said, "We are happy and we have hope inspite of the darkness we see."

Villegas then cited continued violence against political opponents, unsolved murders, vulgarity, fake news. He also blasted statements that bishops should be killed for being useless, and that God is stupid – in an apparent reference to remarks by President Rodrigo Duterte this year. 

Villegas said: "How long must we endure these? What is Christmas for? Is this what we have become as a Catholic nation? The answer must be NO! We must resist the spread of vulgarity and the contagion of violence. There is no Christmas hope for the cowards and the timid. Christmas demands that we stand up bravely for the Lord!"

Tagle and Villegas, two of the Philippines' most prominent bishops, issued these Christmas messages at a time of rampant killings, human rights violations, and vulgarity under Duterte's presidency. 

The Catholic Church is one of the staunchest critics of the Duterte administration. In return, Duterte has lashed out at the Catholic Church, telling Filipinos to kill Catholic bishops and once even insinuating that a bishop is into drugs, a charge the bishop denied.

Read Tagle's full Christmas message below:

In the name of the Archdiocese of Manila I wish you and your loved ones a Blessed celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ!

The bishops of the Philippines have declared 2018-2019 as the Year of the Youth. It is good to reflect on the relationship between the youth and Christmas since we often say that Christmas is for everyone but especially for the young. To fulfill His plan to save us, God sent His Son as a child. Jesus is his name, meaning "God saves His people". Isaiah prophesied a time of JOY and PEACE "for a child is born to us, a son is given to us, upon his shoulder dominion rests" (Isaiah 9:5). The rule of the Child King ushers in joy and peace from God. Only the child-like can bring joy and peace to world. The Filipino youth deserve genuine joy and peace offered by the Savior Jesus, "the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). 

This year we also mark the 200th anniversary of the famous Christmas carol SILENT NIGHT, first sung in a village church in Austria on Christmas Eve 1818. Since then the song has provided a message of true Christmas joy and peace to generations of Christians all over the world. Silent night. During the time of Jesus up to our contemporary time, some nights have become moments of ominous silence. Crimes and evil deeds are often plotted and executed in the frightening silence of the night. The people who suffer and are continuously threatened and harassed live in endless silent nights. But those silent nights are not holy nights. The Child Jesus transformed eerie silent nights into holy nights by pouring on us "love's pure light". Pure love makes nights bright and holy because it comes from God. Only God can love authentically and absolutely. The song also states that God's pure love is manifest in the Child "so tender and mild". Pure love, tenderness, gentleness are marks of the rule of the Child King, thereby making nights holy.

My prayer and wish for all Filipinos and for the whole of humankind, especially for our beloved young people, is for us to welcome and live the joy and peace of the Child Jesus, who is God's pure love, tenderness and gentleness. To the youth, we elders ask pardon if the world we are bequeathing to you is darkened by toxic falsehood, violence, bullying, vices, greed and corruption. Please do not swallow or inhale this toxicity. Jesus the Child is with you. With Him, renew humanity, society, religions and creation with love's pure light, tenderness and gentleness. Christmas is for you. 

Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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