ROME, NOV. 26, 2010 (Zenit.org).- With some 73 million faithful, the Church in the Philippines is the world’s third largest, after Brazil and Mexico.
The pastors of this massive flock are in Rome for their five-yearly “ad limina” visit, meeting with the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia and Benedict XVI.
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, spoke with Vatican Radio about some of the priorities the prelates face.
He noted their constant participation in the debates of the public square: issues ranging from government corruption to the current intense debate on artificial birth control.
“We are heard in part,” Bishop Odchimar said.
Regarding particularly the reproductive health bill under discussion, he noted that “there are people who, especially through the media, support the promotion of artificial birth control. Our episcopal conference is committed to making known the position of the Catholic Church.”
The Tandag prelate also spoke of Filipino laypeople committed to defending the faith.
“We give special attention to the family to protect it from the danger of fragmentation, which occurs given intense emigration and attacks coming from phenomena such as abortion, divorce and consumerist models of life,” Bishop Odchimar said.
Among the initiatives of the laity, he commented on “doctors who explain the limits of the arguments in favor of the law on reproductive health from a scientific and juridical point of view, who defend the position of the Church in favor of life.”
The bishop added, “In our parishes we are promoting programs that support the family and we have lay organizers committed to educating ordinary people on natural methods of birth control.”
Bishop Odchimar also noted the challenge of groups of non-Catholics, many from North America, who come to the Philippines to proselytize.
He explained that the Philippine episcopal conference has established a commission for ecumenism, to dialogue with non-Catholic Christians. “We work together,” he said, “especially on social issues as, for example, agrarian reform.”