What the Pope Told Cory Aquino

Article excerpt

WE have been recently bombarded by the mass media with news and gossips about some of the worst features of Philippine society: corruption in both the government and private sector, mutinous soldiers, and grandstanding politicians. Once again, the ordinary person is tempted to despair of the Philippines ever putting its act together. It seems a foreign author was right when he once referred to the damaged culture of Filipinos.

It is in times like these when it is comforting to reread what the great Pope John Paul II once told former President Corazon Aquino on the occasion of an official visit she made to the Vatican on July 18, 1988. The Holy Father did not see a damaged culture when he visited us for the first time in early 1981 and once again in 1995. In that second visit, he coined the phrase the Filipino Phenomenon to summarize all the good things that we Filipinos represented for him. If we want to fight depression as we witness the ongoing circus among our politicians, let us refresh in our minds the encouraging words of the Holy Father.

First, there is nothing inherently flawed in our desire to build a vibrant democracy. Contrary to superficial opinions about our not being ready for a democracy or that we may need a benevolent dictator like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, we are in the right path to political maturity, no matter how long it may take. As the Holy Father told Mrs. Aquino on that day of July 18, 1988: The recent history of your country is filled with important events which continue to have a profound effect on the collective life of the nation. The new way of governing the country is positively encouraged by those who look to this process as a better way of meeting some of the most pressing problems affecting the well-being of the Filipino people. Many of your fellow citizens are convinced that the good of the country can best be served along the path of a greater participation by all in national life and by a negotiated settlement of the major issues touching upon the unity and structure of the nation, including the important question of relations between the central Government and groups and movements claiming autonomy. The agrarian reform which is a no less important part of your Governments programme can help to meet at the deepest levels the challenge of building a more just society. The efforts made so far, in order to ensure improvements in many sectors of public and private life, offer encouragement to all to continue with ever greater determination in the service of the common good.

Less than a month after these words were uttered by the Pope to the former President, Mrs. Aquino witnessed the inauguration of the first Family Farm School in barrio Dagatan of Lipa, Batangas on August 8, 1988. …