Pope Francis and members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall, Oct. 9, 2023. VATICAN MEDIA

By Felipe F. Salvosa II

October 19, 2023

ROME— The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) offered a “Filipino and Asian perspective” on how the Church could move forward in its outreach toward people with same-sex attraction, a key issue in the ongoing Synod of Bishops in the Vatican.

In a press briefing with other synod delegates on Wednesday (Oct. 18, 2023), Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, CBCP president, contrasted the Asian perspective of looking at all persons as human beings, with the tendency of societies in the northern hemisphere to resort to various labels.

The panel, which included Cardinal Leonardo Steiner of Manaus, Brazil and Archbishop Zbigņev Stankevičs of Riga, Latvia, was asked about proposals to allow blessings to same-sex couples, the possibility of which was opened by Pope Francis in a recent response to a request for clarification or “dubia” by a group of cardinals.

“I’m looking at this from a Filipino and Asian perspective and I can see this is a real concern especially in northern hemisphere … I’m not being critical of the culture of the northern hemisphere but I see strong tendency to label people [based on] gender, sexuality, political affiliation, religion and all of that,” David said.

This perspective, he said, can be found in language and is mirrored by Christ’s outreach to all “potential sons and daughters” of God.

“Where I come from we’re just human beings. In the Filipino language there is a same word for man and woman. If I’m talking about a person I just say ‘tao’ and that ‘tao’ can be a man – male or female, a man or a woman,” David explained.

Jesus, he pointed out, was “accused of socializing with people of bad reputation, with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners.”

“But he didn’t mind being in their company because they are also human beings and they are also called to be sons and daughters of God, and a lot of wonderful things happened to their lives when they encountered him,” he said.

“And we try to follow that same mindset.”

The synod, underway since 2021, is looking at ways to make the Church more “synodal” or consultative and listening, and serves as an advisory body to the pope.

The process involved consultations at the parish, diocesan, national, and continental levels, culminating in general assemblies at the Vatican this month and in October 2024.

Three prelates are representing the Philippines at the “Synod on Synodality”: David, Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila, and Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig, who is also the CBCP vice president.

Also participating is Estela Padilla, a lay Filipina theologian who is among the 70 non-bishop members appointed by the pope to join the synod with voting rights.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the former archbishop of Manila who is now the pro-prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization, is participating in the synod as part of the Roman Curia.


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