WACOM IV  4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy  Philippines January 16-20, 2017

WACOM 4 Day Three

Remembering and Celebrating the Mercy of God as a Forgiven and Forgiving Community

By Melanie Williams (Jan 19, 2017)
January 18, 2017 was the third day of WACOM 4 (the Fourth Apostolic Congress on Mercy) in Manila, Philippines. The events of the day took place at the National Shrine and Parish of St. Padre Pio in Santo, Tomas, Batangas.

Day Three of WACOM 4 focused on "The Church being a Forgiven and Forgiving Community." The day began with the enthronement of the Divine Mercy image and an image of Our Lady of Mercy. Throughout the day, 120 priests heard confessions at the National Shrine and Parish of St. Padre Pio.


Most Rev. Teodoro Bacani, DD, Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches, talked about "Remembering and Celebrating the Mercy of God as a Forgiven and Forgiving Community".

Bishop Bacani said that the faithful should celebrate and proclaim the mercy of God with love, forgiveness and reconciliation.

He said, "Even as we proclaim the mercy of God, let us proclaim it with boldness. I repeat, with boldness, also uphold the rights of human beings, even of the most miserable. As we proclaim life, let us boldly reject unmerciful ways, merciless ways of dealing with the most miserable, including our drug addicts," Bacani said.

Bishop Bacani also shared a story from his fellow priest whose parish had 40 killed in the drug war of the government.

"My dear brothers and sisters, let me tell you this. I was touched when a fellow priest of mine — in his parish alone, 40 people were killed over the drug issue — said to me, 'You know what pains me, Bishop? It's not only those people lost their lives, but if they are sinners and they were killed in their sleep, they had no time to repent. Now they will be condemned, not to jail, but to eternal fire,'" the bishop said.

He also denounced the Oplan Tokhang of the government.

"Today, the Lord in His mercy, He knocks. And when He knocks he brings grace. … Today, we in the Philippines, we also get knocks. We call it Tokhang. But this Tokhang is not a bringer of grace. It is a bringer of death," the bishop said.

Closing his talk, Bishop Bacani quoted Pope Francis: "There is no limit to divine mercy, offered to everyone."


Most Rev. Ramon Arguelles, DD, Archbishop of Lipa, gave the homily at the Mass to close the day. He spoke on mercy and the Sacrament of Confession. He said, "Excellent confessors contrariwise are cheerful penitents. Priests who regularly confess are willing, eager, and ever accessible confessors. Priests rarely available to people for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are those with weak faith in and scant experience of mercy."

He added that the Lord embraces the miserable, the unwanted, the neglected, and the forgotten.

Bishop Arguelles said, "He does not shrink to be with the life threatened addict, or the abused youth, or the impoverished farm or fish folk, or the very sick and abandoned, the imprisoned threatened with capital punishment, the exploited, the orphaned, the unborn unwanted by self-centered parents, the children of delinquent, and vicious elders, the refugees escaping from the destructive war-games, the senseless powerful and mighty seated in comfortable thrones. Divine Mercy Himself pleads for mercy by being the miserable, Misericordia et Misera."



Monsignor Josefino Ramirez, pictured at the top of this page, is the first WACOM-Asia Continental Coordinator, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Manila, and the director of the Divine Mercy Apostolate of the Philippines. He was the one who invited the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception to have a physical presence in the Philippines in 2008. He gave a testimony during the day:

My dear fellow devotees of the Divine Mercy:
I am tasked to give a testimony about our Christian duty to forgive. I will give you three short true stories I have witnessed myself. They are testimonies to the transforming power of God which He makes available to those who ask for it.

I – AMELIA'S BIG HEART

Several weeks ago there was a clamor among our government leaders to reinstate "death penalty" in the Philippines. Like a voice in the wilderness our outspoken Senator Richard Gordon said: "My father while serving as Mayor of Olongapo City was murdered; my own niece was killed by our houseboy but I'm totally against death penalty because I still believe in the virtue of forgiveness and giving those who had committed crimes a chance to reform and change."


This reminded me of the Senator's mother the late Mrs. Amelia Gordon who was very close to me. Her six-year-old granddaughter, Maricris, was spending her vacation with her in Olongapo City. At midnight Amelia left the house to look for a blood donor because someone was stabbed in the city. She left Maricris sleeping with her "yaya," or nanny. The house boy entered the bed room and wanted to molest the maid. When the child was awaken by the commotion the house boy killed the little girl.


After two days of man hunt, the murderer was arrested and was put to jail.

Mrs. Gordon immediately visited him and requested the guards never to harm him. She said to him "You killed my granddaughter because you do not know God fully. It is my Christian duty to forgive you and teach you about God's love." Every Saturday afternoon from then on Mrs. Gordon would visit him in prison and share God's word of mercy and compassion to him and all the inmates.

II – FORGIVENESS: HEALING OF HEART

In December 13, 1975 Bishop Hernando Antiporda, then Pastor of Quiapo Church, Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, and his associate pastor, Fr. Raymundo Costales, were killed by the church janitor who tried to steal from them. The criminal was sent to the New Bilibid Prison where a good evangelization program is being conducted by the chaplain and lay devotees of the Divine Mercy. After serving his term of 30 years, the prison director asked the late Jaime Cardinal Sin if he had any objection to the granting of pardon and amnesty to the criminal. Cardinal Sin said, "We are men of God. I'm sure Bishop Antiporda and Fr. Raymundo, who were murdered in 1975, a Jubilee Year of Pardon and Reconciliation, would be happy in heaven if we give their murderer the chance to start all over again a new life in our society." At present, the forgiven criminal is a very active lay leader and an Extra Ordinary Lay Minister of the Holy Eucharist in his parish community.

III – LOSING A SON, GAINING A SON

Finally, allow me to share a true story that happened to a Salesian priest here in the Philippines. Sometime in 1987, several children were playing and saw a gecko on the tree. Terrified, they all went to Fr. Elmer and ask his help to get rid of it. Out of pity for the children, he took his air gun to shoot down the gecko. Unfortunately he lost his footing while aiming at the gecko and accidentally shot a boy in the chest. The boy instantly died. The priest was very much devastated. For two days he locked himself in his room. The family of the boy was shocked and was very angry. Although the father of the boy was very angry, he did not file any criminal charges against the priest.

When the funeral Mass came, many priests were there to concelebrate. The casket was in the middle, the grieving family members were in front and Fr. Elmer was concelebrating. It was a very intense moment when during the giving of peace, Fr. Elmer was asked by another priest to approach the grieving family. Everyone thought that there will be some commotion between the father and the priest because they all knew that the father was very angry. Lo and behold, when Fr. Elmer approached the father, they embraced each other in forgiveness.

Everyone was in tears. Before the Mass ended, the father was given a chance to give his response. He said that he may not know the reason why God took his boy and his dream to have a son who was a priest, but God is good, he didn't have to wait for many years to have a son who was a priest. He then called Fr. Elmer and said to the crowd, "from now on, he will be my son." It is said that every Christmas eve, Fr. Elmer stays with the boy's family for their Noche Buena.

Conclusion:

Allow me to end my testimony with excerpts from the homily of His Holiness Pope Francis in the Consistory for the Creation of New Cardinals last November 19, 2016. Some of those who were elevated to become Cardinals were victims of persecutions, imprisonment and have suffered a great deal in trying to live their faith and mission in the church. He reminded them of the four stages of a mystagogy of Mercy: love, do good, bless and pray.

"These are four things we can easily do for our friends and for those close to us. The problem comes when Jesus tells us for whom we have do these things. Here he is very clear. He minces no words, He uses no euphemisms, He tells us: "love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you." (Lk 6: 27-28)

Here we find ourselves confronted with one of the very hallmarks of Jesus' message, where its power and secret are hidden. "Here too is the source of our joy, the power of our mission and our preaching of the Good News."

Brothers and Sisters, it is difficult to forgive, but not impossible with God's grace.

Help is never too far away because a Merciful and Generous God loves us enough to empower us with virtues similar to His.


God bless us all.



Learn more about Msgr. Ramirez and his history with the Marians in an interview on our Marians' Philippines page.

See more coverage of WACOM 4 at www.mercycongress.org

Thank you to CBCP News for providing the video coverage of WACOM 4.

Convened every three years, WACOM is an international gathering of Divine Mercy devotees and promoters, including bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and laity. It was first convened by the Vatican on April 2-6, 2008, in Rome, Italy, which coincided with the third anniversary of the death of St. Pope John Paul II. The second WACOM was held in Krakow, Poland, from October 1 to 5, 2011, and the third was held in Bogota, Columbia, from August 14 to 18, 2014. Between WACOMs, continental, national, and regional congresses take place.

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