Celebrating the Gift of Faith

On August 3, 2021, the historic move of reconciliation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Philippine Independent Church, also known as Iglesia Filipina Independiente, happened.

CELEBRATING THE GIFT OF FAITH

 Sir John Din 3

by John Din

Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Regional Coordinator

Columban Missionaries, Philippines

 

Historic events continue to happen even in spite of the pandemic. On August 3, 2021, the historic move of reconciliation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Philippine Independent Church, also known as Iglesia Filipina Independiente, happened. On this occasion, a remarkable event took place, the liturgical launching of two documents: “Celebrating the Gift of Faith, Learning from the Past, Journeying Together” and the “Mutual Recognition of Baptism” between the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines.  It was an honor and a privilege to be part of that momentous event.

Sir John

Both churches were formed and shaped by the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines, 500 years ago. The Roman Catholic Church was trying to live the mission within the context of an expanding empire pushing the boundaries against all odds, while the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, which broke away from the Catholic Church in 1902, was fighting for a truly Filipino church and against the alleged mistreatment of the Filipinos by Spanish colonial rulers. The division was not against each other but against the colonial rule. Miraculously, the gospel finds its way in bringing the two churches together towards greater dialogue and understanding.

 

It was great to see the leaders of both churches at home with each other, fruits of the many efforts over the years to discern and learn from history. The anniversary of the 500 years provided the momentum to make this significant step forward, to heed the gospel call for unity, that we may be one.

 

What was powerful in the celebration was when the church leaders exchanged their gifts for each other. There was the handing over of documents, but it was in the exchange of the symbolic statues of Mary, where in the reverent silence, one could hear the drop of a pin followed by outbursts of joy, people clapping in jubilation. The Philippine Independent Church gifted the Catholic Church with a statue of Our Lady of Balintawak, considered as the sacred image of the country and a reminder of the sacred duty to obtain the longed-for independence of the Philippines. In return, the Catholic Church offered the statue of Our Lady of Antipolo, the first national shrine of Mary in the country and also in Asia.

 

I saw people in tears, maybe of joy, seeing the reconciliation after more than one hundred years of division. The celebration was followed by a meal together. A beautiful picture of leaders of two churches, Roman Catholic and the Philippine Independent Church, eating together in one table was what I saw. A glimpse of heaven, sign of hope in the midst of the corona virus pandemic.

 

Leading the celebration was the Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, Most Rev Rhee Timbang, together with the representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines including Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez of Kalookan and Msgr. Bernardo Pantin, CBCP Secretary General.

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The delegates of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente headed by Supreme Bishop Rhee Timbang (6th from left in red alb) and the Roman Catholic Church headed by Bishop Emeritus Deiogracias Iñiguez (7th from right in light brown barong tagalog & black pants) & Msgr Bernardo Pantin (5th from left beside Most Rev Rhee Timbang), with John Din (far right)

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The delegates in procession at the start of the liturgical celebration