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Catholics bring the vision of the Second Vatican Council to the world by listening to the poor

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle

Mission talk: Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, an alumnus of The Catholic University of America, delivers the university’s annual Cardinal Dearden Lecture on Monday (March 2).
Photo: CNS/Ed Pfueller, The Catholic University of America

BY listening to people’s suffering, joys and daily endeavours, Catholics bring the vision of the Second Vatican Council to the world, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, told an audience at The Catholic University of America.

Such action demonstrates that the Church values the dignity of every person, especially the poor, and that it welcomes encounters with the world without fear, as expressed in “Gaudium et Spes”, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Cardinal Tagle said in delivering the annual Cardinal Dearden Lecture on Monday (March 2) in Washington.

Cardinal Tagle’s talk focused on the final document of Vatican II, released nearly 50 years ago in December 1965. The document, whose Latin title means “joy and hope”, was intended to lay out the Church’s relationship to a rapidly changing society.

Mixing the message of “Gaudium et Spes” with personal stories of his encounters with people living their faith and behind-the-scenes occurrences from Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in January, Cardinal Tagle described a Church that could carry out its mission of bringing good news to a troubled world.

When “Gaudium et Spes” was promulgated, Cardinal Tagle said, many Catholics wondered why the Church wanted to engage the world and whether the Church had any business being concerned with political and economic issues and peacemaking.

The council’s intention was to come in contact with people of all walks of life as a sign of respect for their dignity, he said.

“Through ‘Gaudium et Spes’, the council manifests the Church’s amazement at the value and dignity of every human being. ‘Gaudium et Spes’, from one perspective could be considered an ode of the Church to the beauty, the value of human person,” he said.

“The council was very clear that it presents this teaching for no other reason than to evangelise. There is mission involved here,” the cardinal said. “It is to share the Good News. It is not so much to present a parallel government, a parallel economic system. It presents valuable insight coming from revelation and presents modest contribution to humanity as it searches for a better life, a better world.”

In demonstrating that love, he said, the Church was called to engage with people where they were in life: in families, including those where spouses practised different religious traditions, and in neighbourhoods, the workplace, politics, and Christian and non-Christian religious communities.

“We can start building a presence and become agents of reconciliation,” Cardinal Tagle said.

He said that in the years after “Gaudium et Spes” was promulgated, Catholic bishops in Asia began to meet regularly, leading to the formation of the Federation of Asian Catholic Bishops in the early 1970s. The bishops recognised their numbers were small – about three per cent – and that necessitated respecting the various cultures that made up the world’s largest continent.

The federation recognised that even if the Church was a “tiny minority”, it could not abandon its mission of evangelisation and it did so by listening, especially to the poor and to young people, and by respecting the long-held values of the ancient Asian cultures, Cardinal Tagle said.

“It’s evangelisation, that big word, happening through dialogue, but dialogue happens through human interaction, making the other person feel that he or she matters, that he or she in his or her culture matters. This is the main method of penetrating cultures, entering the heart, the mind of the human person,” he said.

Poor people, including those forced to migrate for economic reasons, refugees fleeing war, people who were trafficked for sex or labour, and street children were in particular need of people to listen to their stories, he said.

“It’s part of the mission of the Church in Asia to show the richness of the Gospel and its universal values of truth, values open to all human beings. That this should happen in human interactions for in Asia, part of the culture is the person,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Tagle cited the actions of Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines that demonstrated how “Gaudium et Spes” can be lived out through encounters with others when he blessed disabled people, visited street children living in an orphanage and listened to the stories of the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

“He was not just a teacher. He was a listener,” Cardinal Tagle said of the Pope.

“We are called to be in solidarity with the suffering and the poor. An evangelising moment comes when you encounter people, real people,” he said.


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