Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle celebrates mass at the St.Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal in April 2016. (FB photo)
Cardinal to speak on March 19
By Ted Alcuitas
While he is being invited to speak on the challenges of the domestic church in a global context, the archbishop of the Philippines’ largest diocese might well speak on the issue of divorce.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila will address the Vancouver faithful on March 19 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at 6 PM. His address will be preceded by a mass at the Holy Rosary Cathedral at 12:15 PM. Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller will make an opening address before the Cardinal makes his talk.
His talk on the family is meant to tackle the many issues faced by the modern family – the domestic Church, as the church calls it.
But divorce will not be far from the cardinal’s mind.
His expected audience of 3,000 will be mainly Filipino Catholics. Among them will be a number of women domestic workers who come to Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program.
Many of these women like those in other countries of the world, are called Overseas Filipino Workers(OFWs). They leave children behind to care for others and this separation takes a toll on the family.
Cardinal Tagle is well aware of this phenomenon.
At the Synod on the Family in 2014, he sought for an open debate and with good will” whether to allow pastoral care to divorced Catholics and civilly remarried couples.”
Drawing from his Philippine experience, he pointed out that “challenges, especially separation of married couples from one another and their children caused by poverty and migration, strikes at the very heart of family life.”
“In our country there is no law on divorce. But people do divorce out of love. Fathers and mothers separate out of love for their children and one of them goes to the other side of the world to work. These separations are triggered by love…” he said.
“We must, as a Church, accompany these people, help them to be faithful to their wives and husbands,” he urged the Church.
Divorce in the Philippines
Except for the Vatican, the Philippines is the only country in the world which does not allow divorce.
A Divorce Law is currently being debated and set to be passed by the Philippine House of Representatives, albeit it is expected to face stiff opposition when it goes to the Senate.
Reports say OFWs overwhelmingly support the passage of the law. A majority of the more than 10 billion OFWs are women and they bear the brunt under the current marriage annulment laws. For overseas Filipinos who seek annulment, the process is a costly and cumbersome one.
The Church is firmly opposed to divorce as it also opposed the passage of the Reproductive Health Law allowing contraception.
No stranger to Canada
This is Tagle’s third visit to Canada.
In 2008, he spoke at the 49th Eucharistic Congress in Quebec while still a Bishop of Imus, Cavite.
In 2016, he was in Montreal to address the meeting of Caritas North America Region and also took time to met the Filipino community there.
The late Jaime Cardinal Sin visited Vancouver and Winnipeg in the late 80s.
The 61-year old Tagle was elected cardinal in 2012, one of two youngest, and is the first person in Asia to be elected president of Caritas Internationalis.
Caritas is a confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.
In Canada, Caritas is represented by Development & Peace.
Problems of family separation plagues community
Deacon Greg Barcelon of the archdiocese’s Filipino Ministry hopes Filipinos will be inspired, not only by his “charm” and speaking skills, but by his message.
“It’s not just an important talk to listen to. It is a messenger from God who is coming to tell us something. It’s very timely that it’s Lent; it’s a holy, spiritually rich season, “ Barcelon told The B.C. Catholic in an interview.
Barcelon personally delivered the invitation from Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, to Cardinal Tagle.
Like Barcelon, Joy Jose, Filipino Multicultural Liaison Worker for the Vancouver School Board, spoke about the problems faced by Filipino immigrants and separation from families.
Both were interviewed by The B.C. Catholic for Tagle’s visit.
Barcelon says Filipino families “break down due to long-term family separation, parents working multiple jobs, and children exposed to Western culture devoid of the family values they had growing up.”
“They know migration helps families financially, but it also tears them apart,” he adds.
Jose estimates that 75 per cent of the first family members to migrate to Western countries are mothers.
“It’s years of separation from their children,” Jose noted. She said in the five or so years the family is separated, the children bond with the new caregivers and don’t necessarily want to resettle in the new country where the mom has now received permanent residence,” Jose told The B.C. Catholic.
Complicating matters more for many children is that the mother might be in another relationship or the parents separate shortly after reunification. In the majority of families Jose works with, the children have to raise themselves.
These breakdowns also lead to a loss of Catholic identity, she says.
Will the Cardinal address these issues?
That is a question that will be in the minds of many Filipinos when they come to listen to “Father Chito”, as he prefers to be called.
(Ted Alcuitas is the editor and publisher of Vancouver-based philippinecanadiannews.com,an online paper that aims to link the Filipino diaspora.)
The cardinal blesses two young children after celebrating mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, April 2016. (D&P FB photo)