Most Rev. Julius S. Tonel, D.D.
Bishop, Diocese of Ipil
Chair, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Liturgy
August 28-September 1, 2017

Download full text here

My warm greetings to all delegates of the 32nd  National Meeting of Diocesan Directors of Liturgy here in Mandurriao, Iloilo.  In 2012, the CBCP launched its pastoral exhortation on the era of new evangelization:  “Live Christ, Share Christ”.  Our annual NMDDL themes continue to align with the nine year renewal program of the Philippine Church in preparation for the 5th  centenary of Christianity in our beloved land come 2021.   This year the focus of renewal is “The Parish as Communion of Communities”.   Without doubt, the nature of our liturgical celebrations manifests concretely communion in the parishes.  PCP II reminds us that after the family the parish is the “second community” that needs renewal.  The CBCP Pastoral exhortation reads :

“This is a year when we more deeply discern not only the structures of governance of our dioceses and parishes but also of the quality of the faith-life in the parish, the fellowship, belongingness, and participation experience by its members.  In a special way we shall probe into our efforts of making the parish a communion of communities… [1]

Speaking of the nature of the parish, we need to understand the nature and purpose of the Church itself.  Lumen Gentium no. 1 says:   “Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men – she here purposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world,… her own nature and universal mission.” 

Where else should we find the concrete presence of being a Church if not in the liturgy?  SC 7 defines:  “an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, by means of signs perceptible to the sense, human sanctification is signified and brought about in ways proper to each of these signs; the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and members.”  (SC 7)

Be aware however that SC 9 recognizes that liturgy “does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church.” The Church, by her nature and mission, must achieve its purpose to bring all into one in Christ.  Evangelization and liturgy must actively call to faith and conversion all aspects of human life and society to bring about the Kingdom.  This calls us to reflect that symbiotic relationship between liturgical life to the quality of faith-life in the parish or local Churches.  Here, we use the three major themes of the renewal:  communion, participation, and mission.


PCP II 598 claims that in the diocese, the parish continues to be the customary place where the faithful gather to grow in holiness, to participate in the mission of the church and to live out their ecclesial communion.”  The parish, as a way of being a Church, must be theologically grounded in the image of the Trinity of perfect communion.  Lumen Gentium 4

“Guiding the Church in the way of all truth and unifying her in communion and in the works of ministry, God bestows upon her varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her.  … Hence the universal Church is seen to be “a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The saving mission of the Son is made present in a particular community  (in this case, the parish) by the mission of the Holy Spirit so as to join each person into communion with the one and for all act of love in which all things offered to the Father.  Gathered around one table (that is the Eucharist) – again particularity of time and space – the Spirit draws us into the Body of Christ as a gift to one another and to God the Father.

In 1 Cor 12:12.27 “The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they, are one body; and so it is with Christ.  … You then, are the body of Christ.  Every one of you is a member of it.” 

The 1983 Code of Canon Law 515 does not define a parish merely as a geographical subdivision of the diocese nor a gathering of individual believers by intentionality[2].

“A parish is a certain community of Christ’s faithful stably established within a particular Church, whose pastoral care, under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, is entrusted to a parish priest as its proper pastor.”

Francis Cardinal George present a basic elements of a parish from its invisible and visible gifts: The parish exists: [3]

If the gift of the Holy Spirit is available, if God’s grace is accessible, if the virtues are infused by Christ, if the Gospel is preached in its integrity,  if all seven sacraments are celebrated, if the community is governed in apostolic succession  and in communion with the Apostolic See. [4]

  1. If the gift of the Holy Spirit is available

 You must recognize the charism of the parish to bring about communion.  A communion is a network of relationships that are established through sharing of gifts initiated by God[5].  A relationship is born when one gives a gift and someone receives the gift.  The network of relationships that establish the Church comes to be through the sharing of the gifts that Jesus Christ wants his people to have and enjoy.  Charisms are to be viewed as “the concrete way in which the Spirit” is active in the history of the Church to build up the Body of Christ. Needless to say that our liturgical celebrations manifest the presence of the gift of the Holy Spirit through the many ministers participating in our celebrations.

  1. If God’s grace is accessible, if the virtues are infused by Christ

 How is God’s grace accessed?  It is the parish that makes these available.  Evangelii Gaudium 28 “The parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers.  It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a center of missionary outreach.”

Are our parishes a place of encounter in revealing the abundance of God’s mercy and compassion?   As pastors, do we allow this encounter readily especially in the Sacrament of Confession and anointing of the sick?  St. Paul reminds us that we are dispensers of the mysteries of God.  In II Cor 5:20, he says: “We all are ambassadors for Christ, God as it were appealing through us”.  Is the grace of hospitality the number one attribute in our offices, in the rectory?[6]

  1. If the Gospel is preached in its integrity, if all seven sacraments are celebrated.

 Pope Francis highlights the parish community in listening with faith and love to the Lord who speaks.  It is the Word of God that inspires faith that nourishes and revitalizes it. It is the Word of God that continually renews our community. [7]  We find the necessity of good preachers, priests, lay catechists and ministers.  “It is in the parish that the full ministry and life of the Church is experienced by the faithful in a regular basis. (PCP II, 598)

  1. If the community is governed in apostolic succession and in communion with the Apostolic See [8]

 We must see the importance of episcopacy in relation to communion with the parish. Lumen Gentium 18 explains that it is in the episcopacy whereby apostolic succession is linked and present the fullness of a being a Church. [9]

Parish is that sort of cell (combining with other cells), and it is likewise a cell in the universal Church.  It contributes its gifts, spiritual goods, faith life, and sense of the faith to the mission of both the particular church and the universal Church thanks to the communion that exists between the particular church and the universal Church.

Liturgical tradition is the very proof of this close union between the bishop and the parish symbolized in the fermentum[10].  The bishop particularly ordains and appoints the priest.  Though the concrete manifestation of the Church is in the parishes, it is for a fact that the fullness of the Church communion is centered in the Diocese/Bishop.  This is further shown in every Eucharistic Prayer whereby the parish community prays always in apostolic communion.  Eucharistic Prayer II reads: “Bring her to the fullness of charity, together with Francis, our Pope, ____, our Bishop, and all the clergy”.

Moreover, “Communion requires that the particular Churches remain open to one another and collaborate with one another, so that in their diversity they may preserve and clearly manifest the bond of communion with the universal Church.”[11]

SC 42 gives the charge to “the bishop, the necessity of establishing parishes, setting it up locally under a pastor who takes the place of the him… for in someway they (parishes) make present the visible Church constituted through the world.”



The first disciples expressed communion by active participation not only in the liturgy but in the whole aspects of their life of faith. They formed a community in which (as the Scripture would reveal) the believers “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). They were “one heart and mind” and shared even the things they owned so that no one among them was in want (Acts 4:32-35).”[12]

Apropos, at all times we speak of “active, conscious, and full participation in the liturgy.  What is really “participatio actuosa”?  This remains a challenge.[13]  (especially in Musica Sacra).  What is the true meaning of “active participation?”  Fr. John Zuhlsdorf interprets participatio actuosa to mean:

 “Primarily that interior receptivity which comes from the baptized person making an act of will to unite himself with the sacred action being wrought in the liturgy by the real “actor”, Jesus Christ the High Priest.  This actuosa (“active” in an interior sense) is distinguished from activa (“active” in an exterior sense)[14]

Liturgy is neither for the sake of gestures, loud singing nor for the cult.  Liturgical celebrations must be accompanied by continuing catechesis and spirituality.  Active participation involves the whole of the person.  – a heart who listens to the word of God and brings him to conversion and who connects his external involvement in the celebration so to bring about the one Body of Christ.

The Philippine Church renewal since PCP II mandated that all diocese expands Church participation through the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs).  BECs is considered as “agent of communion, participation, and mission… a new way of being a Church.”

Pope Francis speaking on the need of collaboration and shared responsibility says:[15]

 “Our challenge today is… to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions…. It means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts that the Spirit pours out upon the Church.  It means valuing the immense contribution that women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make in the life of our communities. “Bringing the parish (all) to an environment “of living communion and participation”, the final step is to completely orient them to mission. (cf. EG 28)



 In John 17:20, Jesus prays:  “I do not pray for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word, that all may be one, as we are one.  I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me… I living in them, you living in me – that their unity may be complete”

Evangelii Gaudium 28 describes the nature of a parish in mission:  “One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission and to enable them to fulfil that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world”. 


PCP II  89-90 further states that “the mission of the parish is none other than the mission of the Church herself, the Bride of Christ and his Mystical Body:  to teach the apostolic doctrine and call people to conversion, to sanctify through the Eucharist, the sacraments and a life of prayer, and to gather all believers into one community of common life rooted in Christ’ truth and love.” [16]  It concludes saying that “the Church is a communion in a state of mission.” [17]


             I present these urgent challenges to mission:

a. Go to the periphery. Pope Francis would call this missionary aspect as “to proclaim even to the outskirts[18]. The concern of the parish involves the many issues of society, outside your rectories:  politics, drug problem and violations of human rights, migration, family life, human trafficking and migration, urban and rural poor, calamities.

b. Promote missionary vocation. In preparation for the 2021 culmination of the 500 year-centenary, the CBCP-Commission on Mission plans to come with 500 lay and clergy missionaries to be trained and sent to various countries for mission.

c. Expand involvement in interreligious dialogue. Intra-religious dialogue and ecumenism are part of our task in mission in our call for peace and unity.

We need liturgy to be involved and be in touch with these realities.  “The social mission of the Church flows from the liturgy, receives strength and direction through catechesis, and then finds its way into the fabric of society through effective governance.” Are our parishes ready to animate and contribute to this demand of the Gospel? How much accent do we give on mission in our liturgical celebrations?  (During Mission collection lang?)

“Ite missa est” is not merely a statement to say the “Mass is ended” nor being ask to go home.  Rather, it is an imperative mood to mission: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”; “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”.  “The mission of the Church is to bring into Catholic communion everyone whom Christ died to save, so they all come to know who is in his body, the Church.


I repeat the statement of Lumen Gentium of what the Church is:  “The Church in Christ is in the nature of sacrament – a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men.”  Pope Francis gives us the hint how to do this in the parish.  In EG 28, he says, “Make the Church (parish) the home and the school of communion, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey.”  Koinonia as communion can only happen when there is a dialogue of life between the pastor and the flock, between the diocese and parishes, and between the Pope and among local churches expressed in faith, prayer, and experience.   Parish communion means:

Communion of Mind and Heart (brings us to solidarity, fellowship, friendship)

  • Communion of the Word/Faith (connects us to apostolic teachings through the apostolic ministry of the bishop in union with the Pope as one Church, one faith)
  • Communion of the Table (expresses our Fellowship in the Eucharist, the sacraments and liturgy); and our
  • Communion of Goods (manifested in the sharing of material/spiritual resources, and stewardship)

Our Blessed Mother appeared to the three children in Fatima 100 years ago to call the world to communion.  She, who welcome the Word of God, first opened her heart that brought her to incarnate the Son of God.   She consecrated her life to bring us her children into communion with the heart of her Son.  May our days of reflection bring more deeply our parish liturgical experiences into fuller communion, greater participation, and courageous missionary discipleship.

On behalf of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission of Liturgy, I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Most Rev. Angel Lagdameo, D.D., the Archbishop of Jaro and the clergy for the warm hospitality.  To Fr. Julius Almeria, director of the Archdiocesan Commission on Liturgy and the many working committees for facilitating the conference. To all the delegates, kindly give my gratitude to your bishops who have supported the NMDDL through the years.

That in all things God be glorified!


[1] PCP II 598.

[2] This is in reference to the protestants who by “faith in JC  would be enough to constitute a Church

[3] Francis Cardinal George “The Parish in the mission of the Church” in What is a Parish?: Canonical, Pastoral, and Theological Perspectives.  Thomas A. Baima, ed. Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2014. 21.

[4] P. Anthony Oelrich, p. 159. The gifts are both visible and invisible.  The invisible gifts are, first of all, the Holy Spirit and God’s life in us, created grace, and the virtues infused and acquired.  But there also visible gifts:  the Gospel of Jesus Christ as preached in the Church, the 7 sacraments of the apostolic Churches, and apostolic governance.

[5] We see this in the sacrament of initiation.  Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift received in baptism. The formula of confirmation speaks of being “sealed with the gift, the Holy Spirit”.

[6] Pope Francis:  “With the grace of the Holy Spirit let us commit ourselves anew to bringing God’s mercy to all men and women, and performing those works which the Spirit inspires in each of us for the common good of the entire people of God” in Witnesses and Ministers of Mercy, p. 29.

[7] Pope Francis, “Listening, Walking, and Proclaim to the Peripheries” in With the Smell of the Sheep, p.34. He tells the priests: “Away with these never-ending boring homilies that no one understand.  How can a priest preach if he not first opened his heart, not listened in silence to the Word of God.

[8] Note:  EA 25: “Each particular Church must be grounded in the witness of ecclesial communion which constitutes its very nature as Church. It is primarily in the Diocese that the vision of a communion of communities can be actualized in the midst of the complex social, political, religious, cultural & economic realities of Asia.”

[9] Lumen Gentium 18: “In order that the episcopate itself, however, might be one and undivided he put Peter as the head of the apostles, and in him he set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion.”

[10] Fermentum was the practice of having an acolyte brings a small particle of the Eucharist from the bishop’s liturgy to the parish celebration; the priest then placed it in the chalice after the Pax as a sign of the local congregation’s communion with its chief shepherd, the bishop.” (cf. Francis Cardinal George,OMI,p. 33).

[11] This expresses the importance of unity through the apostolic communion of the hierarchy.

[12] Motto of the Diocese: “Habebant omnia communia” How do our la people relate to their pastor? I recognize the patience and resilience of our faithful.

[13] This has been the issue relative to the topic on Church music. Musica Sacra celebrating its 50 years.

[14] Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. “The true meaning of ‘active participation’ | Fr. Z’s Blog. Mar 20, 2006.

[15] Pope Francis, “Collaboration and shared Responsibility” Mass with Bishops, Priests, and Religious Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, September 26, 2015, p. 114.

[16] PCP II, 89-90.

[17] PCP II, 103.

[18] Pope Francis. With the smell of the sheep. “Meeting with the Clergy, Persons in Consecrated Life, and Members of Diocesan Pastoral Councils Cathedral of San Rufino, Assisi, October 4, 2013. P. 37.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s