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After its 96th plenary meeting, the influential Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued a statement on the current predicament of the nation. Stressing that the common good be pursued above personal interests, the bishops' statement underscored that the challenge for each and everyone is to undertake personal conversion that would eventually lead to genuine social transformation.
The message of the bishops is not new. Taking into consideration the beginning of the Lenten season and its call for conversion, the bishops' statement took cognizance that change is needed in the personal and societal levels. Identifying key issues that confront our communities, the statement succinctly declared that underlying these problems is the subservience of the common good to personal interests.
Perhaps it is its constant recurrence that the message is viewed by some as being trite, even soft. Perhaps the message's lack of substantial results has also made it seem inconsequential.
Nonetheless, the call for personal conversion that eventually redounds to social transformation is compelling more than ever. Further, the caution against the recourse to violence remains valid still.
A few sectors, expectedly enough, do not agree with this message. They criticize the injunction of personal conversion and opt to undertake a "speedier" recourse towards effecting social reforms and changes. A recourse that is fraught with peril, for as recent events have shown, it often entails bloodshed.
And then there are others who perceive the bishops’ message as “soft”: it does not hold the Arroyo Administration as accountable for the crises afflict us. This view misses a crucial point made in the statement.
The bishops’ statement, in fact, calls attention to the fact that, while they are truly legitimate problems that need to be addressed, the crises that stem from the Arroyo government may well be limited to Manila, but not to the other parts of the country. This is not to say that issues emanating from the national government remain within the ambit of Manila and its close environs. Rather, what the bishops’ statement indicates is that there are problems in the provinces that are relegated to the periphery because they are not “national” issues.
More importantly still, these issues demand that they be confronted by viewing them from the perspective of the common good, and not of one’s personal interests.