One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Spring/Summer 2021 

The Call to Love One Another and Celebrating 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines

By: Most Reverend Oscar A. Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs  

Bishop Oscar Solis

The Easter message of light and newness of life rings loud in our nation and throughout the world as we come out from the darkness of the pandemic and from the many senseless killings, the rising tide of racial violence, and the hateful sentiments against Asian and Pacific Islanders. This is a wakeup call.  We cannot remain silent. It requires from us more concrete action to help stop racial injustice and inequities in our society. This begins with each one of us by our recognizing and loving one another as brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God, gifted with equal human dignity and our embracing each other as members of one global family.    

These recent events can easily distract, frustrate, and discourage us. But God remains with us and His abiding presence is manifest in many mysterious ways: in the many acts of goodness, compassion, charity and heroic sacrifices of many of our brethren. There are other reminders as well. Our Holy Father’s call for fraternity and social friendship to build a better, more just and peaceful world (Encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”), inspires us to rise above these challenges. The US Bishops Pastoral Letter, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, likewise challenges us to help heal the effects of polarization brought by systemic and institutional racism in our society through our encounter with the living God in the person of Christ that can bring conversion of hearts.  

Christ’s resurrection proves that the power of love, light and life are stronger than hatred, darkness and death. The hope of a new normal and a beginning of a new life after the pandemic is upon us. We have more reasons to rejoice and be glad. There is other good news that brings Easter joy and gladness. One of our Asian and Pacific Island communities, the Filipinos, are celebrating an important Jubilee. The year 2021 marks the 500th Year of Christianity in the Philippines. Since Spain arrived in the country and introduced Christianity to the natives in 1521, the Catholic faith has been a strong influence and an integral part of the history, culture and life of the Filipinos.  

Millions of migrants and foreign workers live their Catholic faith and bring it with them wherever they settle. Their rich culture and colorful traditions are visible and recognized all over the world. The first Filipino saints were missionaries and martyred in foreign lands. No wonder Pope Francis gave the Filipinos a flattering compliment, describing them as “smugglers of the faith" in recognition of their contribution to the Church’s mission of evangelization.  

The global theme of their grand celebration is “Gifted to Give,” to view the past with gratitude for the Christian faith they have received and move to the future to share this blessing with others as disciples of Christ. Pope Francis, in his video message for the occasion, thanked the Filipinos for their “deep sense of family, community and fraternity that keeps them firm in faith, joyful in hope and attentive in charity.”  He urged them to be grateful and generous missionaries of the Gospel and to renew their enthusiasm for evangelization, “to reach out to others and bring them the hope and joy of the Gospel, the love of God for our brothers and sisters.” 

The faith, spirit of unity, joy and harmony of our Asian brothers and sisters give us a sense of hope and courage to confront the many challenges we face these days. It serves as an antidote to the pandemic of polarization, sadness and discrimination that ills our nation and the world. Let us join them in their celebration.