Tagle to parishes: Host 'noche buena' for the poor
MANILA, Philippines – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle urged priests in Manila to host poor families during their traditional Christmas Eve meals on Wednesday, December 24.
“In order to make this joyful season of the celebration of the Lord’s birth more meaningful, especially for our less fortunate brothers and sisters in our communities, I encourage you to adopt a poor family (or families) to join you for noche buena in the parish rectory,” Tagle said in a December 18 letter to all parish priests, shrine rectors, and chaplains in the Archdiocese of Manila.
Families in the Philippines traditionally celebrate the noche buena, which literally means “holy night,” after the Midnight Masses between 8 and 11 pm every December 24. Noche buena staples include ham and fruit salad, which became more unaffordable for the poor in 2014.
To make Christmas more meaningful for the poor, Tagle asked priests “to organize programs and activities for the poor during this season.”
“May our solidarity with the poor help us to behold the Son of Man who became poor that we may become rich for God. Let us visit Jesus in the mangers of poverty around us. And let us bring gifts of mercy and compassion,” he said.
Tagle's call came as the Catholic Church in the Philippines marks the Year of the Poor, and prepares for the visit of the pro-poor Pope Francis in January 2015. (READ: Cardinal Tagle challenges Filipinos: Inspire the Pope)
Pope to visit 'Jesus in the Filipino'
In a statement, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) explained that Christmas in 2014 “carries an added reason for excitement” because Francis will arrive in the Philippines in a few weeks.
CBCP president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas pointed out that the Pope wants Jesus Christ, not him as pontiff, to be the focus of his Philippine trip.
Villegas said: “He comes to us to pay homage to Christ who is already in our country even before the start of the papal visit. The papal visit is Jesus in the Pope visiting Jesus in the Filipino. What a wonderful moment of grace!”
“Christ is in all of us. Christ is in our poverty. Christ is in our prosperity. Christ is in our hunger. Christ is in our plenty. Christ is in our storms and calamities. Christ is in our progress and tranquility. Christ is in our dark nights. Christ is in our sunny days. Christ is always with us,” the archbishop added.
Villegas also urged Filipinos to “beg the Lord to open our eyes and hearts that we may always see the wonder of His tender love everyday of the coming year in everything that happens, in every person we meet, in every moment of our lives.”
In a separate Christmas message addressed to all Filipinos, Tagle added, “May Christmas 2014 give us greater zeal to combat trafficking in human persons, new forms of slavery, neglect and abuse of children and violence against the helpless!”
Francis, also vocal crusader against human trafficking, will hold his trip to the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015, with the theme “mercy and compassion.” The highlight of his trip is his meeting with earthquake and Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors in the Visayas on January 17. – Rappler.com