Pope Francis' Gift to Chicago

By Mariano “Anong” Santos
PINOY Editor/Publisher



LEFT PIC SHOWSPresident Aquino at Harvard University: Candid recollection of his years in Boston. RIGHT PIC: Bishop Blase Cupich (L) and Cardinal George after a press conference Sept. 20 in Chicago.


 The designation of Bishop Blasé Cupich to succeed the ailing Francis Cardinal George is the best gift Pope Francis could have ever given to Chicago—not only to the 2.2 million Catholics in the area but to all Chicagoans as well.


The 65-year old priest is the first one appointed to the archdiocese who is not yet an Archbishop. He is also the first of Croatian descent. By all indication, Pope Francis is sending a message to the city. The new shepherd shared the pope's vision for a renewed church—one which is not saddled by doctrinal matters but a church that would bring the biblical message of mercy and compassion to the community.


Bishop Cupich carries with him a record of being a firm supporter of immigrant rights. He is also reported to advocate looking on the many positive aspects of the controversial Affordable Care Act-- like the main provisions of providing insurance to the poor and the young. He is also aligned with the pope's admonition to equitably share resources with the marginal segment of society.


The Bishop is also known to have brought healing to the victims of clergy abuse. He fixed his current diocese in Spokane, Washington which went bankrupt prior to his appointment there because of a huge financial settlement over court suits against abusive priests.


Chicago Archdiocese has seen a big decline in the 40 years. In 1975, there were 2.5 million parishioners compared to 2.2 million now. There were 1,261 priests then, now only 771. Nuns numbered to 6,500, now 1,676.


There were 16,000 weddings in 1975 but only 5,801 in 2013. School enrollment in parochial schools used to be 147,100 but dwindled to 83,000. The Catholic population is 47% White; 44% Hispanic; 4% Black and 3% Asian and others.

While Filipino American Catholics helped bring vitality and shored up the erosion of membership, they are a small segment of the population. In fact, they are perhaps some of the more conservative followers.


For instance, on the issue of the family planning segment of the Affordable Care Act, Filipino Catholics most likely did not vote for President Obama because of this provision. Unlike the Hispanic Catholics, Filipinos are mostly silent on the issue of immigration.

With Bishop Blasé Cupich taking over in November, progressives are hopeful that Filipinos will somehow see their faith through a new prism that unites rather than divides.


P-Noy's urgent appeal before the UN


The fact that the Philippines is the third most disaster-prone country in the world, according to the World Disasters Report 2012, next to Tonga and Vanuatu, is a compelling reason that President Aquino should be on the forefront of the United Nations Summit on Climate Change that started September 23 in New York.


The report was of 2012. A year later, the Philippines experienced its worst typhoon in history. Super-typhoon Haiyan battered the Visayas region on Nov. 8 with winds at 188 mph. It is the strongest recorded typhoon ever to make landfall in the world.
Haiyan claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people with 2,000 still missing nearly a year after the tragedy. This September, back-to -back storms had caused a P1.1-B agricultural losses in Luzon.


Aquino is among 120 heads of state and government attending the summit, the biggest ever gathering of world leaders, business executives, and civil society groups on climate change. U.S. President Barack Obama is participating in the event but the leaders of the two other top-emitting countries, China and India, are absent.


People's mass action was apparent in the streets of New York Sunday before the Summit's opening. The 300,000 marchers were joined by other rallyists in various parts of the world. They demanded a swift action on the problem of carbon emission that causes global warming.


President Aquino was criticized for his appeal for support to bring new technology to Third World countries like the Philippines that can help them transition to sources of renewable energy like solar and wind which entails expensive start-up costs.
Critics pointed out that several fossil plants are due for construction back home. These are some of the main sources of carbon omission. The Philippines is also facing a grave electrical shortage that disrupts economic production. It's a dilemma that is certainly weighing hard on the Aquino administration.


The president's UN plea was for his fellow heads of state and government to give the Philippines financial and technological support for climate change adaptation and mitigation.


"We have never lacked to resolve... transitioning towards less traditional sources of energy. What we lack is the access to technology, financing investment that will allow us to accelerate our strategy…I believe the challenge before us is to innovate on ways in which the transfer of useful technology and the building of climate smart infrastructure [which] might be achieved under a global unity of effort," Aquino said in his 4-minute speech.


The Philippines and other developing nations have been calling on developed countries, especially the top greenhouse gas emitters, to commit to give them funds and technology as they suffer from being in the frontlines of climate change.
Meanwhile, in crowded Manila, where traffic feels like you are travelling on the roads to hell, leaders like the President should work for a better means of mass transportation. Diesel-fueled vehicles that clog the arteries of this congested metropolis are not only sources of pollution but of loss of economic productivity and of serious respiratory diseases.


Noynoy's candid talk in Boston


On Sept. 21, the 42nd year anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines, President Aquino was visiting the house in Boston, that he and his family had lived in from 1980-83. The nostalgic trip brought with it memories like him taking quick cold shower during winter days when their ever present house guests would consume their hot water.


At an open forum at Harvard, he candidly admitted upon learning that his dad, Ninoy, was murdered at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, that he harbored unpleasant thoughts like wanting to get even with the suspected perpetrators of the despicable deed.


P-Noy was then in his early 20s. Some are feigning shock that the then young man would react that way. My reaction is why not? I will be "shocked" if he did not react as he did. I heard about Ninoy's assassination a few minutes before I attended a Sunday service at the Central United Methodist Church in Skokie.


I would recall now that on August 21, 1983, I was already a 38- year old father to two children. I remember that I was stricken with a vindictive mind then--even during the hour I was inside the church. My thoughts included a plot to dump a couple of gallons of red paint right on the door of the Consul General who had called me on several occasions a "communist" because of my involvement in the anti-martial movement starting the day it was declared by President Marcos.


I had the privilege to meet Sen. Ninoy Aquino during his numerous visits in Chicago during his three-year exile in the U.S. I spoke to him when he first publicly appeared at a Methodist Church at Chicago's Roger's Park after his heart surgery.


Cesar Arrellano a member of the Ninoy Aquino Movement (NAM), had requested me a month before Ninoy's scheduled departure in August 1983 if Ninoy could sleep at our home in Skokie—a common arrangement among activists to save their limited funds. Cesar's group, the NAM, were putting together a convocation where Ninoy was supposedly to reveal in public his plans of going home—an event that was scrapped at the last minute.


(Many, like fellow exile Sen Jovito Salonga, were asking Ninoy to postpone his trip because of a reported plot to kill him upon his arrival in Manila.)


I assure you now that I sobered up after church that fateful day in August of 1983. No red paint was spilled in the Consulate. Instead, I became one of the main organizers of a rally in front of the Consulate participated by hundreds of Filipino Americans and their supporters—the biggest number that ever protested in Chicago against the Marcos Dictatorship. So fired up were the protesters that we marched along the major streets of the Loop, holding up placards where the red paint finally wound up as angry words.

So I understand how the youthful Noynoy felt then, considering that Ninoy was not even my father. •

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