“He is the only bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who gave a statement supporting workers last May 1, the Labor Day. You cannot say something you did not see for yourself. I believe that (he) being the shepherd will encourage his fellow priests and the members of the church to be defenders of workers’ rights,” said Sr. Noemi Degala, Society of Missionary Sisters of Mary.
By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The appointment of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle as one of the new Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church is a welcome development for church groups supporting the plight of workers.
“He is the only bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who gave a statement supporting workers last May 1, the Labor Day. You cannot say something you did not see for yourself. I believe that (he) being the shepherd will encourage his fellow priests and the members of the church to be defenders of workers’ rights,” said Sister Noemi Degala, Society of Missionary Sisters of Mary.
Degala made the pronouncement during a conference held by the Church-Labor Solidarity Network (CLSN) on Monday to talk about the situation of workers and the church’s involvement in advocating on labor issues.
Among the church groups who attended were members of the Kaihusahan sa mga Layko sa Mindanao, the United Methodist Church of the Philippines, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the Lay Forum of the Philippines and the Sisters Association of Mindanao.
The discussion on Tagle’s positive role rose when the group started to discuss what the church can do for the workers.
Father Dennis Maquirme, IFI, said that the church could give sanctuary to workers and their families who have security threats and to provide for their needs.
Pastor Eleazar Templado, UCCP, added that CLSN could release statements on the current issues of the people and the workers to manifest their stand and to signify their solidarity.
Meanwhile, Degala said that “we must reclaim the church of the poor.”
When asked by davaotoday.com on where she thinks the Roman Catholic church is now in terms of advocacy for workers, labor issues and being a “church of the poor,” Degala noted that the church have been involved in the past but has yet to “remind its members.”
She cited as an example various church documents giving importance on the protection and advocacy on human dignity and workers issues.
“(The Roman Catholic) church has made many social encyclicals: the rerum novarum, the laborem exercens and others which workers may hold on to,” said Degala.
An encyclical is a letter of the Pope to his bishops or addressed to the whole church sometimes in response to certain issues. However, Degala said that the encyclicals are in truth church “mandates” containing statements for the protection of workers’ rights against exploitation.
“It also gives the workers a good clout to demand from their employers what is theirs justly and legally,” said Degala.
While Degala said that the Roman Catholic Church have played a historic role in issuing such edicts, popularization of these encyclicals have been scarce over the years. Degala said seminars and symposiums should be made regarding the encyclicals.
“This is in order for parishioners to be vigilant when they can go out and support these people,” Degala said.
Degala also said that the religious community especially Roman Catholics must not be complacent just because the previous Popes have come-out with such documents.
“The same conditions that beset workers during the time those encyclicals were made are still very present today; nothing has changed,” said Degala.
Ricky Acub, a student of the Spottswood Methodist Center of the United Methodist Church of the Philippines in Kidapawan City, said of the conference: “I am very thankful. I have learned what church members should be doing for the oppressed workers. I have seen here that even if we belong to different denominations, we must be united to respond to different issues of the sectors like what Jesus himself did in defending the poor and oppressed of his time,” Acub said.
Romelito Pablo, Chairperson of the Lapanday Box and Plastic Plant Workers Union, who attended the conference to update the participants on their current plight, told the group they should immerse themselves in the factories and among the workers’ families to know the real situation.
Emma Ricaforte, executive director of the Nonoy Librado Development Foundation, reiterated this call saying that: “There is much that the church people can do for the workers.”
The group also plans to invite Cardinal Tagle himself in their next conference. Degala added that “(H)is love for the workers will move him to empower others to do the same,” said Degala. (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)Religion