An Easter Message for the Youth

(Easter Message of Bishop Joel Baylon)

A blessed and happy Easter to you, dearly beloved young people!

Once again, after days of Lenten discipline and mortifying sacrifices, after listening to and meditating on the mystery of Christ’s Suffering, Death and Resurrection, we arrive at the culmination of the greatest feast of the Church—Easter. With minds enlightened and hearts burning like the two disciples at Emmaus, we feel called to journey with the Lord in the jubilation of Easter in order to witness to His Risen Life before our fellow human beings!

“Humanity today expects from Christians a renewed witness to the resurrection of Christ; it needs to encounter him and to know him as true God and true man… [It needs to] rediscover with renewed conviction, faith in Christ dead and risen for us…” says Pope Benedict XVI in his Easter Message.

In our Philippine context, we can read this as a call to involve yourselves—as young people—in the current events that shape our country, as we continue to journey (albeit meanderingly and with a lot of uncertainty) towards progress, peace and unity. The coming national elections for one, ask for your all-out and active participation. Whether you will cast your ballots or not, you must generously give your time, talents and communal efforts to safeguard the electoral process. With dedication do you share in making possible that the precinct count optical scans work as expected, that voters get to their respective polling places, that the votes are correctly counted, and all these happen in an atmosphere of peace and civility—so that there will be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power on the 30th of June.

We can never overemphasize the truth that the young are the inheritors of tomorrow. And precisely because you are, my dear young people, you have the right and the responsibility to be active sharers in the events that will guarantee a bright and hopeful tomorrow—not only for the country which you will lead and carry someday, but also for the Church and other institutions that will compose part of your future.

In his message for this year’s World Youth Day celebration last 28 March, the Holy Father said: “The future is in the hands of those who know how to seek and find strong reasons for life and hope. If you want it, the future is in your hands, because the gifts and the riches that the Lord has closed in the heart of each of you, molded by the encounter with Christ, can bring back true hope to the world!”

It is my fervent prayer that you, my dear young people, will respond generously and joyfully to this call. Take courage! “Do not let yourself be discouraged and do not give up your dreams!...” “Do not be afraid…” the Pope went on to say in his WYD message for “(God) knows how to give profound joy to him who responds with courage…”

May our Blessed Mother, who gently and lovingly guided the young Jesus in his growing years, guide you as well and lead you to her Risen Son, who makes all life meaningful and fruitful! I remain

Sincerely yours in the Lord,

Bishop of Legazpi
Chairman, CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth

BISHOP vs CABRAL: Think of condoms during Holy Week, AIDS a week later?
GMANews.TV - Saturday, April 3

A Catholic bishop urged Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral to reflect during the Holy Week on her agency's program of distributing free condoms. But in turn, Cabral is inviting Church groups to a summit on April 12 that will discuss the same issue.

"DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral, dapat magnilay ngayong panahon ng Kwaresma ... Ang pamamahagi ng condom sa mga tao ay malinaw na pagsira sa diwa at spirit ng kwaresma dahil pino-promote nito ang imoralidad sa lipunan," Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said in an interview on Church-run Radio Veritas.

(DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral, reflect during Lent. Distributing condoms clearly destroys the spirit of Lent because it promotes immorality.)

Bastes said that during Lent, Christians are asked to renew their lives “by more intense prayer, acts of penance by mortifications, give alms thru charitable acts and meditate on the laws of God." Meanwhile, he said, “Cabral here is promoting immorality and physical sickness instead of health in soul and body."

Excerpts of the interview were posted on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines news site.

DOH invites Church groups

Despite the continuing barrage of criticism from bishops, the DOH has invited Church groups to attend the 2010 HIV Summit on April 12, a week after Holy Week. Several faith-based groups have already expressed their intent to participate, according to an article posted on the DOH website.

“The government cannot do this task alone of reducing and preventing infections. I am glad that faith-based organizations now have opened their doors to this calling of caring and providing support to those infected and affected," Cabral said.

Catholic bishops had ganged up on Cabral since February 14 when DOH workers distributed free condoms to those who bought flowers in the Dangwa market.

According to Cabral, the condom distribution was part of the department's program to curb the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

After Cabral accepted a challenge by bishops to debate on the issue of condoms, Church-backed groups continued to hold anti-condom protest activities.

Increase in HIV infections

Cabral said the 2010 HIV Summit aims to inform national leaders of the current state of HIV/AIDS in the country and the need for urgent action towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal 6, particularly on HIV.

She noted the number of infected individuals increased from one infection every three days in 2000, to one per day in 2007, and two infections per day in 2009.

Because of this, she said the country cannot afford to lose a day in stopping the spread of the dreaded disease.

Presently, Global Fund pays for the cost of medicines of people living with HIV/AIDS and these medicines are free only until 2012.—JV, GMANews.TV