The Backward Direction of Culture

Manila’s Auxiliary Bishop Buhain on the Challenges to Peace

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2003 ( Here is the address by Auxiliary Bishop Teodoro Buhain of Manila, Philippines, during the videoconference of theologians organized last Wednesday by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy (

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«The Challenges to Peace of War, Violence and Terrorism»
By Bishop Teodoro Buhain

The current human problems are complex and perplexing. The Christian most of the time finds himself challenged to carry out the demands of solidarity and dialogue in an increasing plurality of cultures, variety of religious affiliations, and pluralism of sociopolitical views.

In Asia for instance, the Church is expected to be a supporter and servant of harmony and peace. This means that the Church in Asia has to be an authentic expression of God’s love to all the various cultures of Asia and at the same time an embodiment of the visions and hopes of peoples.

The thrust of the Church then is to pursue the interior life, harmony, and holistic approaches toward every area of human life. Difficult situations like war and terrorism require us to foster a new expression of being Church. The Church is called to renew its fervor with a new way of evangelization that will lead all men to Christ, the Prince of Peace, who is the goal of humanity, the joy of their hearts, and the fulfillment of all their aspirations (see «Gaudium et Spes,» 45).

Violence, war and terrorism are manifestations of human weaknesses. The Church is challenged to be a community of compassion. We believe that the failure to obey God is always the source of sin and death.

The Scriptures asks us to listen and believe that we may have eternal life (see John 5:24). The grace of God abounds in the weaknesses of man because God, through his mercy, constantly calls man to share his Kingdom. The Church has to be a sign of God’s mercy. It is the mercy of God that abounds all the more in sinful human structures. St. Paul says, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more (Romans 5:20).

Violence, war and terrorism are signs of the defeat of humanity. It shows the backward direction of culture. As the Church enhances its mission of inserting the Gospel in various cultures, the perfecting and healing power of the Gospel has to be intensified.

Conflicts manifest the imperfection of culture and sinful human structures. Cultures have to be shaped by the power of the Gospel. The creative power of the Spirit works in cultures while man lives and designs his own destiny within the context of culture. Vatican Council II reminds us that, man comes to a true and full humanity only through culture, that is through the cultivation of the goods and values of nature («Gaudium et Spes,» 53).

The multiplicity of cultures allows us to experience also the multiplicity of different beliefs, sometimes contradicting our own. In the light of the Gospel, the various degrees of values elicited by culture make us aspire to unity amid the diversity of mentalities.

With gratitude to the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church learns and hopes to be an instrument of dialogue. In the midst of apparent unending conflicts of interests within cultures, the Church learns to be open to new ways of perfecting and expanding cultures through living out the Gospel demands, which today are challenged more than ever before in the history of mankind.

Conflicts may arise due to the progress and achievement of contemporary man. Man is fully aware that he becomes an architect of society. He becomes the artisan of his own culture. An inward self-discovery makes him a designer of his own life and destiny. However, this demands an integral moral responsibility on the part of man. The Church serves as a Mother and Teacher («Mater et Magistra») of mankind.

Violence, war and terrorism can only be eliminated if progress is based on peace, truth and justice. The Church is increasingly challenged by the present global crisis. It has to be a sacrament of peace, the defender of good culture, and the teacher of peoples.

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