Ten Catholic bishops asked forgiveness for the Church’s “sins” against Philippine tribes at a recent “Day of Pardon” Mass at Baguio Cathedral.
Bishop Sergio Utleg of Laoag told indigenous peoples who gathered for the 12 Oct. Mass that the Church had “failed to imitate Jesus who welcomed and accepted all cultures.”
“We demonized the rituals. You played gongs and were penalized by [the early missionaries]. We suppressed the indigenous spirit. What have we done in the name of the mainstream Church? We ask [the indigenous peoples] for pardon,” Bishop Utleg said in his homily.
“Unlike the old days of the early missionaries who forced indigenous peoples to turn their backs on their own culture, we can now express our faith in their language, thought patterns, signs and symbols,” he continued.
The bishops later took part in a “bodong,” a peace ritual common to Kalinga and indigenous peoples tribes in the northern Philippines, which involves the exchange of peace tokens.
Items exchanged included a Bible, a rosary and a bishop’s staff in exchange for a spear, a shield and woven cloth.
Inculturation can redeem Church’s sins
Commenting on the event, Baguio vicar-general, Father Andres Cosalan Jr., told ucanews.com that inculturation could heal the Church’s “sins” against native peoples.
“Inculturation is like incarnation in which God became human through Christ,” according to Father Cosalan, who is a member of the Ibaloi indigenous group in Benguet province.
He made his comments to mark Tribal Filipino Sunday organized by the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples of the Catholic bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
This year’s event explored the theme “Healing for Solidarity: Asking for Forgiveness for Sins against Indigenous Peoples”.
Father Cosalan told ucanews.com that the “Day of Pardon” Mass and the bishops’ peace ritual replicated the late Pope John Paul II’s Day of Pardon in 2000 when he sought forgiveness for the Catholic Church’s sins against the Jews, Protestants, indigenous peoples and women.
He said that the Church can now work toward healing and solidarity through “inculturation,” which he described as the Catholic Church’s way of redeeming itself before the indigenous peoples.
Solidarity with indigenous people
In his “Day of Pardon” homily, Bishop Utleg also committed the clergy to supporting indigenous peoples’ fights against mining interests and logging ventures that damage ancestral lands.
This is “part of the Church’s solidarity with indigenous peoples,” Bishop Utleg said.
Meanwhile, the Philippines Mines and Geosciences Bureau has listed 110 applications to explore mineral resources in the nation’s north, which is home to 1.2 million indigenous peoples collectively called Igorots.