Wednesday, April 27, 2005

We owe them [I owe you]

Latest government figures have quoted the Philippines' public sector debt to be at an estimated PHP5.9 trillion (105T US$, at an exchange rate of PHP56=$1). Of this figure, PHP3.4 trillion worth is courtesy of the national government, causing 31.4% of the national budget to be eaten up by debt servicing to pay for the principal loans and interest accrued.

Notwithstanding my attempt to sound technocratic with the monetary figures and all, the theme of this post is simple: the Filipino people owe creditors a lot of money.

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Myself reacting to the reports presented at the Senate last April 25.

I got the data from a forum I attended last April 25 at the Philippine Senate. Entitled "Congressional Commission on Debt: An Urgent Action to the Crisis," the forum was co-sponsored by entities like the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and the Philippine Legislator's Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD).

Opening remarks were delivered by Sen. Rodolfo G. Biazon, who drafted Senate Joint Resolution No. 1 that provides for the creation of a congressional commission to review and assess the debt policies, strategies, and programs of the Philippines. Recently Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan co-sponsored the measure, which is backed by equivalent legislation at the House of Representatives: House Joint Resolution No. 2 by Rep. Edcel C. Lagman.

Forum speakers included Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Asst. Gov. Diwa Gunigundo who reported on the current status of the Philippine Debt Stock (with focus on external debt), Department of Finance (DOF) Asst. Sec. Gil Beltran who talked on the government's efforts in dealing with the debt problem, and FDC SecGen Lidy Nacpil who clamored for action on the Joint Resolution calling for a Congressional Commission on Debt that shall do a Debt Audit.

The two agents of the Executive Branch - Gunigundo and Beltran, had a common theme - that faulty tax efforts are to blame for the ballooning of public debt. Beltran elaborated that the higher level of deficit is largely due to the decline in the revenue effort. He ascribed these to two things: 1) failure of the tax structure and inflexible/unresponsive tax policies, and 2) weak tax administration.

It was acknowledged that tax enforcement problems and an inconsistent, "roller-coaster ride" in collection performance are reasons for the weak tax administration. On the other hand, excise taxes not indexed to inflation, low VAT effort, liberal fiscal incentives, and lowered tarrif rates are to blame for the failure of the tax structure. I'm not so sure who said this (was it Gunigundo?): if the tarrif rates of the early nineties were not aggressively reduced, we would be in a better fiscal position now.

Nacpil of the FDC acknowledged the technocrats' statements, but underscored that the falling tax effort is only part of the problem. She narrated that the problem is historical, since the 1970s when there was a surplus of funds from Northern countries that the Southern countries capitalized on through loans (Marcos era). Succeeding Presidents did not help - notably former President Corazon Aquino who acknowledged as part of the government's responsibilities what the FDC calls illegitimate debt. Such onerous debt reportedly includes dubious borrowings of Marcos cronies, and later on the funds used for Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

After all was said, reactors took the floor. I was the fourth or fifth, and I reacted on behalf of the youth sector in general and UP Manila students in particular. I supported the FDC's call for the passage of SJR No. 1 that would effectively complete the circuit towards the establishment of the Congressional Commission for Debt Audit, that shall take upon itself to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate debt. Perhaps it is through this concrete step, via the framework of our democratic institutions, that we shall move towards the right direction in addressing problems like the recent (still apparent?) fiscal crisis.

Note: To date, the House of Representatives has already approved on Third Reading Rep. Lagman's HJR 2 (Yeas: 129, Nays: 0, Abstains: 0, 9/21/2004). The Senate has yet to act on Biazon and Pangilinan's SJR 1.

Friday, April 22, 2005

It must be the eyes

It seems that gambling, gossip, and speculation all go hand in hand with human instinct that turns on whenever major events are taking place. This is so true with the ascent of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger - now Benedict XVI - to the Papacy. It's commonfare for people to give their take on what his reign will be like, or how he shall conduct himself: rottweiler or shepherd?

I'd like to see it this way: take a look at Pope Benedict XVI's recent photograph below and note your first reaction.

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Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

It must be the eyes.

Yes, we are liable to pre-judge people we do not know personally based on what information is made available to us - such as photographs and write-ups in the case of Benedict XVI. In my case, I've been hearing his name before - Ratzinger - coupled with his infamous reputation for being a staunch doctrinal enforcer. Then, my Dad pointed out just recently (when CNN trained its cameras on Rome due to John Paul II's passing) that Cardinal Ratzinger has this stern, scary look.

But have we given thought to other information about him? The best gauge by which we can say whether he will live up to the nasty label of "God's Rottweiler" shall be how we will work. Here are some updates:
Earlier Thursday, Benedict reappointed the entire Vatican hierarchy.

The Vatican also unveiled new e-mail addresses for Benedict, following an innovation started by Pope John Paul II.

Benedict's schedule also shows hints of the openness and symbolic gestures that were at the heart of John Paul's reign. On Saturday he is set to hold a meeting with journalists, something he regularly did as a cardinal.

An outdoor Mass to formally take the papal throne is scheduled for Sunday. Choosing an open-air installation over an indoors ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica shows Benedict favors the populist touch of recent popes who have made the same choice.

In another sign Benedict intends to follow John Paul in reaching out to other religions, the new pope invited the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, to the installation Mass. The rabbi will not be able to attend as Sunday is the first day of the Jewish Passover holiday, but he was pleased to be asked, said Riccardo Pacifici, a spokesman for Rome's Jewish community.

With the above, the press is now pushing that Benedict XVI will continue his esteemed predecessor's administrative style. What about the personality?
All agree that he is strongly rooted in church traditions and inflexible on issues such as the church's bans on contraception and women priests. But so was John Paul. The new pontiff may lack his predecessor's charisma, but he shares his sense of reaching out to the faithful, they say.

"He was a follower and servant of the late Pope John Paul II," Vatican-based Colombian Cardinal Lopez Trujillo told Colombian radio RCN. "He is a simple man, serene, cordial, with a fine sense of humor and very kind. ... No one has seen him in a moment of indisposition of rancor or intolerance. These are myths the press invented."

Another cardinal, Italian Tarcisio Bertone, who had worked as Ratzinger's top aide, described how the new pope always paid attention to the street cats around the Vatican and how they sometimes followed him as he walked to his office.

Bertone joked: "One time the Swiss Guards had to intervene: `Look, your eminence, the cats are laying siege to the Holy See.'"

The Rev. Anthony Figueiredo, a Rome-trained theologian at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, said the pontiff is making the needed transition from the rigid role of "defender of doctrine" to the world stage as "unifier and spiritual leader."

Let us all hope and pray that he is indeed who we need as our Holy Father, as his initial showings have been communicating.

Perhaps in the next few weeks, the nasty labels will gradually be obscured by proof that Benedict XVI is truly the vicar of Christ - loving, caring, and leading. Then maybe all shall now say to him, "Wir Lieben Dich" - German for We Love You.

(The Pope's E-mail:

[News block quotes from the article New Pope Keeps Vatican Hierarchy Intact.]

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Gloria olivae: St. Malachy's Prophecy

When I turned on my television set this morning at 7am to tune into CNN for news on the conclave, what greeted me was footage of the newly-elected Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. I was dumbfounded because of his choice for a papal name - Benedict XVI.

A few days earlier, I was rummaging through a bunch of websites dealing with prophecies on the apocalypse, or the end of the world. A validated version - the Fatima prophecies - was already the subject of a prior article of mine which I wrote during the interregnum, or the period immediately after the late John Paul II's death wherein there was no Pope. Yet.

And then there was the prohecy of St. Malachy, a treatise that dealt with predictions on the line of succession to the throne of St. Peter - otherwise known as the Roman Catholic Papacy.

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St. Malachy O'More

St. Malachy O'More is also known as "the Irish Nostradamus". What brings him to fame in the roster of saints of the Catholic Church is his 1139 AD work Prophecies of the Popes. He was visiting then Pope Innocent II to report on the affairs of his diocese (Armagh). Having St. Bernard - his contemporary - as a biographer, he is said to be one of the most documented saints in the Church.

The author Abbé Cucherat is said to have written of his vision while at Rome. Cucherat writes of Malachy's strange vision of the future that allowed him to list, in chronological order, the pontiffs who shall rule the Roman Catholic Church until armageddon. He did not write names, however. Instead, mystical and enigmatic mottoes were given to describe each Pope.

Note however that some Church scholars doubt whether the latter part of Malachy's list is authentic, because one prevailing view today is that some Jesuits in the 1600s tampered with the list, effectively making succeeding mottoes as forgeries. Supposed proofs for this view say that until that period, there was a clear relationship between each motto and the Pope given it. Afterwards, extensive references or allusions would have to be made just to "fit" the Pope into the motto.

On the other hand, it is said that St. Malachy gave his list to Pope Innocent II, who left it untouched in the Roman Archives until its revelation in the year 1590. Some say that the span of 400+ years from Malachy's vision to the discovery of the document proves that it is authentic, and no forgeries took place.

While it is left to us in the present day to discern if indeed the prophecy is authentic, here are some mottoes of recent popes, and the justifications on why they fit the motto:
John XXIII (1958-1963): Pastor et Nauta - pastor and marine

Prior to his election he was patriarch of Venice, a marine city, home of the gondolas.

Paul VI (1963-1978): Flos florum - flower of flowers

His coat of arms displayed three lilies.

John Paul I (1978): De medietate Lunae - of the half of the moon

He was born in the Diocese of Belluno (beautiful moon). His reign lasted for only a month - from half a moon to the next half.

John Paul II (1978-2005): De labore Solis - from the labor of the sun

Karol Wojtyla was born on 18 May 1920 during a solar eclipse. His funeral last 8 April 2005 coincided with another solar eclipse visible in the Americas.
After De labore Solis comes the motto for John Paul II's successor: Gloria olivae, or glory of the olives. Analysts said that either the next Pope would come from a Mediterranean country (areas rich in olive trees), or would have olive-colored skin (as in the case of latinos). Church scholars say that a symbolic meaning of the motto would be that of the Order of St. Benedict - who they say is represented by olives.

And just yesterday, the 265th successor of St. Peter - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - chose for himself the name Benedict XVI.

That's not the scary part, if one may think of it that way. What's chilling is that St. Malachy's list enumerates Gloria olivae as the second to the last motto. The last, Petrus Romanus, has this entry in latin:
In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & Judex tremêdus judicabit populum suum. Finis.

(In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End.)
Which, upon understanding, would mean that the Pope after Gloria olivae would be the last Pope. Some even say that it's either Petrus Romanus or his successor who will be the Anti-Christ.

Now before you go and spread the bad news (if you vouch for the prophecy's authenticity and relation to current events), remember that a school of thought thinks the prophecy has been a forgery since the 1600s. And apart from our new Pope's name being Benedict, there has been no solid link to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's being from the Order of St. Benedict or having anything to do with olives.

Be a judex tremêdus please, and judge formidably the contents of this article before you think of doomsday scenarios.

Reference websites:
Catholic Online
Wilson's Almanac - for the illustration of St. Malachy

Habemus Papam!

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(REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam:

Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum Josephum
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger
qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI

We have a Pope! The princes of the Roman Catholic Church have elected their fellow Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, hailing from Bavaria, Germany, as the successor of Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II) to the throne of St. Peter. Ratzinger has chosen the papal name Benedict XVI.
At the sound of the bells, nuns pulled up their long skirts and joined others jogging toward St. Peter's Square to watch the new pope emerge. Many were delighted when Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estivez stepped onto the balcony and announced [German Cardinal Joseph] Ratzinger's election.
It must have been exciting there at the Vatican for normally docile nuns to "pull up their skirts" and sprint towards St. Peter's square. Even on television (c/o CNN, BBC, and EWTN - the Vatican network), the suspense could be felt. I didn't catch the news live a few minutes past midnight Manila time, but the moment I turned my TV set on (pre-tuned to CNN) at around 7am, the sight and sound of the Vatican Bells pealing jolted me out of bed. Indeed, the wait is over.
As dean of the College of Cardinals, Ratzinger had delivered a particularly sensitive homily at John Paul's funeral. He followed it up with a fiery speech to the cardinals before they entered their conclave Monday, warning about tendencies that he considered dangers to the faith: sects, ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism, agnosticism and relativism - the ideology that there are no absolute truths.

"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church is often labeled today as a fundamentalism," he said. "Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards."
Are we to expect therefore a stronger clampdown on liberation theology? I recall in my old blog a comment that referred to the Christian Left as an offshoot of liberation theology. I'm not well-versed at its particulars, but from the homily of then Cardinal Ratzinger, it appears that he is to resist such moves. The thing is, he has been Pope John Paul II's top man in terms of Doctrine for the past twenty years. So will there really be an intensified campaign to stifle dissent?

I'd prefer to see it as a continuation of John Paul II's dynamism and humility. He may have been controversial on his conservatism, but in my opinion what we need is more of a Pope that shall reach out to the members of the Church. Discourse on the ideologies can follow next. (Why won't we give Pope Benedict XVI the benefit of the doubt?)

If Benedict XVI is to do as his great predecessor did, then I'm happy.
Like John Paul, whose country was occupied by the Nazis, Ratzinger also has a World War II legacy.

In his memoirs, he wrote of being enrolled in Hitler's Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He says he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood.

Two years later, he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper, a common fate for teenage boys too young to be soldiers. Enrolled as a soldier at 18, in the last months of the war, he barely finished basic training.
This is an interesting note. It appears that while Karol Wojtyla grew up running from the Nazis, here we have now a Pope that grew up on the other side of the fence - a citizen of the Third Reich. But, Pope Benedict XVI is said to have denied having willfully participated in the massacre of Hitler. He was young at the time, and conscription was unavoidable (like Wojtyla who actually served in the Polish army at some time). Perhaps it is Divine Providence that Ratzinger was let out of the Nazi army because of his studies for the priesthood.

As usual, other news items have been hyping the alleged angst of the Italian block in the Vatican. The article Italians Again Shut Out of Papacy sums it all up - the media hype, the unnecessary commentary on the merits and demerits of having an Italian pontiff. Have we forgotten that the word
actually means universal?

And if universality in the Church is to mean respect for all points of view, including Pope Benedict XVI's conservative conservatism, then perhaps it is rightful to accept our new Holy Father, to support him, and most importantly to pray for the Lord's guidance as he steers the Church in the years ahead.

Let's be optimistic. As some observers noted, to which we should be watchful:
"The image we have of him as a theological storm trooper, particularly in the West, is not the reality," said Brian Saint-Paul of the conservative Crisis magazine. "People are going to see Cardinal Ratzinger for the man he is, quiet, truly humble, extremely popular among those who know and work with him."

"I think we're in for an image reshaping."

Salvador Miranda, a Florida International University librarian and historian of the College of Cardinals, agreed: "I believe we're going to be surprised. It's one thing to be the bad cop for the pope and another to be the pope himself."
[News block quotes from the articles German Cardinal Becomes Pope Benedict XVI and As Cardinal, New Pope Confronted Americans

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Oath of Office

Yesterday, we student leaders from the University of the Philippines Manila have now been formally given the responsibilities of our various offices. Quoting Prof. Doroteo Abaya (OSA Director), yesterday was the signing of a social contract of sorts - that we, the University and College Student Council officers, have gone into with the students of UP Manila.

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With UP Manila Chancellor Marita VT Reyes, MD administering the Republic's Civil Service Oath of Office, at least thirty (30+) student leaders from all seven UP Manila Colleges - Allied Medical Professions, Arts and Sciences, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health - attended the simple but significant induction rites for the University and College Student Councils of AY 2005-2006. Prof. Abaya stood as master of ceremonies for the affair held at the UP Manila Board Room, while parents, guests, and Office of Student Affairs (OSA) staff served as witnesses.

May this be the start of a fruitful term in the year ahead!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Farewell, Holy Father

Thank you, Holy Father, for venturing into missions that sought to unite the Universal Church. Thank you, Supreme Pontiff, for guiding your flock like a true shepherd to his sheep. Thank you, Pope John Paul II, for touching our lives and showing us that God is with us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let us join the tens of thousands of people who assembled in St. Peter's Square during the funeral rites, in shouting their call for John Paul II:

Santo Subito! (Soon a Saint!)

[Candle picture from this site.]

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Owning a Mynah Bird

Last Sunday on the way home from morning market shopping, my parents chanced upon this street trader selling different kinds of pet birds. He was situated alongside the road leading to our Village, under a shady tree. Square cages of all sizes were piled on top of each other, housing African lovebirds, their ordinary counterparts, and some smaller avians that I didn't know of.

My mother was initially contemplating on buying one ordinary lovebird, because the two we currently have here at home have not laid an egg since we bought them around six months ago. We think they're either both male or both female.

It wasn't long however before mom heard the "eh-eh" raspy croak of the young Mynah birds at the bottom shelf of the cages.

A Hill Mynah. Photo from this site.

Scientifically known as Gracula religiosa, the usual mynah bird that can be found here in the Philippines is the hill mynah breed. There are varieties under the general hill mynah type, including the Greater Indian Hill, Flores Hill, and the Palawan Hill (I believe the latter is the one we have).

Curiously, these birds are locally fed with pelleted dog food. The first time we had a mynah bird a good five to eight years ago, I was intrigued on why these avian pets thrive on the commercially available dog food pellet formulas like Purina, Science Diet, Sportsman's Choice, etc.

The birds are preferentially bought while they're still young. For one thing, the older birds are more expensive and already trained to talk, and would-be owners sometimes do not like the voice by which the bird says "Hello!" or the more common "Kumain ka na?" (Have you eaten?). In such cases, the fledglings are hand-fed, with the dog food pellets being pre-soaked in water to make them soft and easy to swallow.

Also, the mynah bird loves to bathe in its water dish. It jumps into the water-filled clay pot and methodically shakes its feathers from head to tail, apparently to stave off the summer heat.

Training is done usually while it's being fed, or at regular 15-minute sessions during the day wherein one would say a word or phrase repeatedly for the bird to pick up. "Hello" is the first word for many mynah birds; the young birds would be heard saying "eh-yo" before later on polishing their imitation and saying the word, accurately copying even the accent of the trainor.

I miss having a mynah bird. Did we buy the bird that my parents saw? We did not, it's an endangered and legally protected species. ;-)

[A useful website for current owners of mynah birds is - on the home page, click on the link Articles to access information written by the site authors on a number of things like feeding, housing, training, etc.]

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Interregnum: The Last Pope?

Is Karol Wojtyla - better known as Pope John Paul II - the last pontiff? Or is he, as is claimed by a popular saying, the third to the last Holy Father, after which the end of the world shall come?

Hold your horses - we're not about to walk out onto the streets and wear boards shouting "the end is near!" to all those who pass. I'm just highlighting a few worries that some friends of mine were talking about yesterday, when we met and shared our grief for the death of the Pope.

Pope John Paul II's body is carried across St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Monday, April 4, 2005 on its way for public viewing inside St. Peter's Basilica. With tens of thousands of mourners outside hoping for a glimpse of the body, 12 pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards carried the late pontiff's body on a crimson platform from the Sala Clementina, where it had laid in state since Sunday. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini )

Recently, Pope John Paul II's body was moved from his Apostolic Palace to the Basilica of St. Peter - that huge and magnificent Church structure that is the center of the Vatican. The body was then allowed to be viewed by the general public, under constant vigil by the Swiss Guards and prayerful aides of the Pope. His transfer was effected as thus: priests chanted the Litany of the Saints, 12 white-gloved pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards in red-plumed helmets gingerly marched the body from the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, where it had lain in state for prelates and dignitaries, to the basilica....
Everything was done in a ceremonial manner. Notable however was the way some pilgrims received the short procession - they were clapping! Later on I found out that this is the way Italians show grief during a funeral. It's cultural practice on their part.

Going back to my friends' speculations that the Pope's death
could be (not is) a harbinger of catastrophic things to come, I was reminded of a quite popular and accepted prophecy - that of the Secrets of Fatima.

Verified and accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as true and having originated from the Blessed Virgin Mary, the secrets of Fatima were revealed on May 13, 1917 to three visionaries who saw our lady there at Fatima - Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and their cousin Lucia dos Santos. The Marto siblings died early in the twentieth century in an influenza pandemic, just a few years after their vision. Lucia lived on and became a cloistered nun, but she passed away recently last February.

The first and second visions are thus elaborated:

Lucia said the first secret shown to them by Mary began with a terrifying vision of hell. Mary then indicated that the war would soon end, as World War I did in the following year. But Mary foresaw that a "night illuminated by an unknown light" would precede a "worse war" in which "The good will be martyred" and "The Holy Father will have much to suffer." On January 25, 1938, a remarkable display of aurora borealis was visible across Europe, the year before World War II began.

The second secret involved the future of Russia. Lucia says Mary revealed that Russia would "spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars," and that "Various nations will be annihilated." Many believe this is a direct prophecy of the spread of communism. "I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart," continues the account of Mary's revelation. "If people attend to My requests, Russia will be converted and the world will have peace." Some interpret Pope John Paul II's 1984 consecration of Russia as fulfilling the prophecy, and paving the way for the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union as the "conversion" of Russia.

The third vision, however, was written and sealed by Sister Lucia and entrusted to the Roman Catholic Church, with explicit instructions given by the Blessed Mother not to reveal it until the year 1960. It is supposed to contain this:
...a bishop in white, agonizingly making his way to the Cross through a sea of corpses of Christian martyrs, suddenly cut down by a fusilade of bullets.
Still, it was not immediately read to the public in 1960. It was only 19 years later after the assasination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 that the mystery was ended by the Vatican. A website writes this on the third prophecy:
Vatican officials concluded that the third Fatima prophecy applied to the past, especially to the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in 1981.

The Vatican found compelling evidence to make this association during the subsequent trial of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman. During his 1985 trial Agca made the statement that his assassination attempt was "connected to the third secret of the Madonna of Fatima." (Agca made his attack on May 13, 1981. The apparition at Fatima first occurred on May 13, 1917, exactly 64 years to the day earlier).


The Vatican, and especially Pope John Paul II, found the coincidence of dates compelling, but they were completely awestruck by Mehmet Ali Agca's later trial announcement because no one knew the contents of the prophecy except for the Pope himself and a very few of the highest Papal Cardinals. The obvious conclusion was that Agca must have been inspired to make that claim through supernatural means. It meant that the Holy Spirit had used the gunman to verify the truth of the Fatima prophecy.
Whatever the case may be, true or not - a prophecy is a prophecy and oftentimes much of it goes plainly to hype. Remember the modern-day "prophecy" of the Millenium Bug, that when the clocks reach the end of 1999 all machinery would stop and non-compliant electronics would find their clocks back at 1900? Well the computer that I'm typing this blog entry on is non-Y2K compliant and it works fine for me in this year of 2005.

Regarding the third Fatima prophecy - John Paul II wasn't successfully assasinated - he died of old age. Thus it can be said that there was no
fusilade of bullets that caused his demise. Neither was his passing untimely, and in complete humility and transparency the late Holy Father kept on updating us through the media about his last hours here on Earth.

But his death was a cross unto him itself - for he suffered with Parkinson's disease since 1994 and recently with bouts of infection. So speculation cannot do anything but just make us paranoid.

It does, however, make for good discussion material at times - so long as it isn't taken that seriously. Like what another friend of mine jokingly referred to in the book
Angels and Demons - that the television feeds from the Vatican are just a farce, that according to the novel the Pope has long been dead...

... I don't think so.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Traditions of the Church

+Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

(Photo from this site. It shows his ability to candidly reach out, specially to the youth, from behind his office's formality and stature.)

Pope John Paul II Dies at 84:
In contrast to the church's ancient traditions, [Vatican Spokespan] Navarro-Valls announced the death to journalists in the most modern of communication forms, an e-mail that said: "The Holy Father died this evening at 9:37 p.m. in his private apartment." The spokesman said church officials were following instructions that John Paul had written for them on Feb. 22, 1996.
May God find favor in his 26 years of spiritual leadership.

While we mourn the passing of Karol Wojtyla or Pope John Paul II to us 1.2 Billion Roman Catholics, we are now left with the question as to what shall happen to our Church's power structure. We are, after all, human - and that means we need to organize ourselves with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It is also interesting to observe the procedures that the Vatican shall be doing in the next few days. Personally, I have always found our traditions to be of great importance and significance.

News agencies report that the "Pope's Death Triggers [a] Scripted Ritual", a set of rites that have been observed by the Vatican everytime a pontiff dies, since ancient times. Recent modifications were made however by none other than the late John Paul II himself, when he released a 1996 document Universi Dominici Gregis (Of the Lord's Whole Flock) that specifically gives instructions on how Vatican officials are to move upon a Pope's death and how the subsequent voting for a new Pope shall proceed.

The news article Process of selecting a new pope is shrouded in secrecy describes very well how the Conclave of the College of Cardinals shall go about electing the new pontiff. Why it is called a conclave is explained by the following from another news article already cited above:
The word "conclave" comes from the Latin for "with a key," referring to a practice that arose in the 13th century.

In 1243, the Senate and people of Rome broke a year-and-a-half deadlock by locking the cardinals up until they finally elected a new pope. In 1271, the cardinals were not only locked up, but were put on a diet of bread and water until they could agree.
Drastic measures used in frustration? Perhaps. (Maybe we should have "conclaved" our Philippine legislators last May-June 2004 when they kept on delaying the counting of ballots in Congress.)

The Vatican voting process is very much shrouded in secrecy and sanctity. To give an illustration how it goes, here's a few lines from Universi Dominici Gregis, in particular how the ballot is to be placed in the receptacle (ballot box):
Each Cardinal elector, in order of precedence, having completed and folded his ballot, holds it up so that it can be seen and carries it to the altar, at which the Scrutineers stand and upon which there is placed a receptacle, covered by a plate, for receiving the ballots. Having reached the altar, the Cardinal elector says aloud the words of the following oath: I call as my witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected. He then places the ballot on the plate, with which he drops it into the receptacle. Having done this, he bows to the altar and returns to his place.
The length of time for the Conclave depends on how long the Cardinals will take to choose the next Pope. After all has been said and done, the signs that we outside the Sistine Chapel should look for will include white smoke coming out of the Chapel's chimney, and the protodeacon (Chilean Cardinal Medina Estivez)'s proclamation "Habemus papam!" - which means "We have a pope!"

Until then, we wait in mourning, prayer, and contemplation.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Passing of a Great Pontiff

TV commentaries described today's recent events regarding Pope John Paul II as truly saddening, specially for those Catholics who are 30 years old and below who have no recall of any other Holy Father besides John Paul II, or Karol Wojtyla. I agree.

The latest news - Vatican: Pope John Paul II Is Near Death - is not much consoling as it is depressing:
VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II was near death Saturday, his breathing shallow and his heart and kidneys failing, the Vatican said. Millions of faithful around the world knelt, crawled on their knees, bowed their heads and lit candles to pray for the 84-year-old pontiff.

"This evening or this night, Christ opens the door to the pope," Angelo Comastri, the pope's vicar general for Vatican City, told a crowd at St. Peter's Square, where up to 70,000 people prayed and stood vigil in the chilly night.
That pronouncement by Angelo Comastri, that "This evening or this night, Christ opens the door to the pope," is heavy with significance and sorrow.

Logic escapes me on why I am so influenced by the Pope. Perhaps it is because I look to him as a grandfather-figure. And my own maternal grandfather's passing was just a year ago - under the same circumstances wherein he deteriorated gradually at first then agressively towards the hour of death. Or maybe because Catholics the world over look up to the Holy Father for his spiritual guidance.

Whatever my reason is and the developments that shall soon follow, the world will probably agree that this is a significant event in history. Already, John Paul II's life and works are being shown on international TV stations. He's even touted to have helped overthrow communism in Europe (which is viewed as not beneficial to Poland's history):
Lech Walesa, founder of the Solidarity movement that toppled communism in Poland in 1989-90, recalled the power of John Paul's visit to Warsaw in 1979. It was the first to his homeland after becoming pope a year earlier, and he ended Mass with a prayer for the Holy Spirit to "renew the face of the Earth," words that became a rallying cry.

"We know what the pope has achieved. Fifty percent of the collapse of communism is his doing," Walesa told The Associated Press on Friday. "More than one year after he spoke these words, we were able to organize 10 million people for strikes, protests and negotiations.

"Earlier we tried, I tried, and we couldn't do it. These are facts. Of course, communism would have fallen, but much later and in a bloody way. He was a gift from the heavens to us."

The pope's role in the fight against communism was largely symbolic and moral.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin had once disparaged the influence of an earlier pope, as reported by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: "The pope! How many divisions has he got?" Yet John Paul turned out to have forces at his disposal beyond the imagination of the communists who ruled Poland after Soviet troops occupied the country at the end of World War II.
In the moments to come, the whole Catholic world shall pray for God's guidance and wait. In the meantime, Vatican tradition steeped in history can provide insights on events as the faithful look for signs of the Pope's Passing:
When a pope dies, the prefect of the papal household, currently American Archbishop James Harvey, tells the camerlengo, or chamberlain, who is the most important official running the Holy See in the period between the death of a pope and the election of a new one.

The camerlengo, now Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo of Spain, must then verify the death — a process which in the past was done by striking the forehead of the pope with a silver hammer. The camerlengo then calls out to the pope three times by his baptismal name — Karol, Karol, Karol. When the pope does not respond, the camerlengo then announces "the pope is dead."

The camerlengo uses the silver hammer to smash the pope's ring — the papal seal or "ring of the fisherman" — to preclude forgery of official documents.

He then tells the vicar of Rome, who informs the people of the city.

The prefect of the papal household then tells the dean of the College of Cardinals, now Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who then formally informs the rest of the college, ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, and heads of state around the world.
May the Lord be with the Holy Father at this dark hour of his humanity.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Pope given last rites

This just in: Vatican source: Pope given last rites.
VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II's condition remained "serious" early Friday, but he appeared to be responding well to antibiotic treatment for a urinary tract infection that caused him to develop a fever, a Vatican official said.

Thursday night, as his health deteriorated, the pontiff was given the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church, a Vatican source told CNN.

The sacrament does not necessarily mean that the pope is dying. Last rites -- also known as the sacrament of the sick or extreme unction -- are commonly given to people who are seriously ill as well.
A commentator from the CNN remarked that the Pope's mind is clear and lucid, but his body parts are betraying him one by one. This is most likely due to his old age. Also we must emphasize that the administration of last rites does not necessarily mean a person is about to die. There is, however, a matter of extreme urgency for such a sacrament to be performed.

Let us all pray for the Lord's guidance and protection for His faithful servant and vicar here on Earth.