What did Pope Paul’s visit do for the Philippines? This was asked in Manila by many people, especially the poor in a land where so few have so much and so many have so little.
The peripatetic Pope visited the shanty of a 41-year-old construction worker and father of eight earning about $6 a week; certainly this was a highlight of the trip, at least to the poor. They compose most of the nation’s 35 millions, 80 per cent of whom are Roman Catholic.
Perhaps the world, though, will best remember the Philippine papal visit because of the sensational attempt to assassinate the Pope minutes after his arrival at the airport November 27. Within a few days, many columnists for Manila’s five English-language newspapers were prone to dismiss the so-called “assassination attempt” as unworthy of comment because it was done by a “publicity seeker.” Their observation seemed borne out by a psychiatrist whose examination of would-be assassin Benjamin Mendoza, a 35-year-old Bolivian artist, showed he was suffering from the “severest form of systematized paranoia.” (In fact, some Mendoza paintings, waiting for buyers for months at the Manila Hilton, sold out immediately after the incident, which was the first attempt on a pope’s life since 1517. These had been offered for a mere $10 before Mendoza suddenly sprang to world attention. An American art gallery reportedly boosted its price for a Mendoza watercolor to $5,000.)
One of the most interesting comments about the significance of the Pope’s visit was by columnist Armando D. Manalo in the Manila Chronicle. Manalo asserted that “Catholicism and Communism have at least one thing in common: they are both committed to the export of ideology.” The Philippine columnist also saw other similarities: “As the papacy solidified its economic and political power, it began to behave less like a fired ideologue than a traditional great power—exactly as do the current Soviets.”
Admitting these were “surface similarities,” Manalo said Catholicism and Communism are, in fact, “locked in mortal combat,” though he saw indications of Pope Paul’s desire for rapprochement with Communist China.
Another columnist, Vincente M. Tanedo, writing in the Daily Mirror, saw yet another comparison: “If the masses readily took Pope Paul VI to their hearts, this was mostly because of devotion with a blend of fanaticism and hero-worship. For isn’t religion, as one writer once remarked, the opiate of the masses?”
Of more significance was the attention the Pope brought to the almost unbelievably abject poverty in which a large percentage of the Filipino population still lives 405 years after the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church in this land, the only Christian nation in Asia. Some observers saw in the alleged wealth of the Philippine Catholic hierarchy alongside widespread poverty an example of twentieth-century feudalism. The Pope’s visit to the poor laborer’s hovel was reportedly the first time Rufino Cardinal Santos, archbishop of Manila, had ever set foot inside any of the thousands of slum dwellings in many parts of his city of five million residents.
A columnist writing in the Manila Bulletin noted that the Philippines “is at the tail end of economic development” among countries of the Far East. He said Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia are not Christian countries, and yet are “developing much faster economically than the Philippines.” He concluded that “it would seem that religion is irrelevant to economic development.”
The Philippines Herald observed editorially that it was no doubt Pope Paul’s presence at the first Asian Catholic Bishops Conference (held in Manila) that inspired the bishops to approve a manifesto listing “many lofty and highly laudable goals, not the least of which is that of making the church ‘truly the church of the poor … and of the young.’ ”
The degree of disenchantment of Filipino youth (who are increasing in numbers) with Cardinal Santos was seen in a manifesto they directed to Pope Paul demanding the ouster or resignation of the 62-year-old Santos, who reportedly had been asked by the Pope to stay on when he asked to step down a few years ago.
While the effects of papal visit were felt on nearly every level of Philippine society, it remains to be seen how much of this will be translated into reform, much needed in both church and state.
Weary Pope Keeps Tight Schedule
Bone weary, Pope Paul VI made a brief stopover in Samoa after a nine-and-a half-hour flight from the Philippines. The gruelling, 28,000-mile pilgrimage—his ninth and longest trip—took him on to Sydney, where an estimated 250,000 people from all over Australia joined in a Mass at Randwick Racecourse. The bicentenary Mass, celebrated also by the four regional leaders of the Pacific Episcopal Conference, was said to be the most moving demonstration of faith in Sydney’s 200 years of history.
But later in the same city, the pontiff ran into the first organized Protestant picketing of the tour. Parading with placards, some militant Protestants led by the Reverend Frederick Channing of New Zealand, protested a giant ecumenical service inside the town hall. Catholics booed Channing as police led him out.
Sydney’s Anglican archbishop Marcus Loane made good his announced threat to boycott the service, citing doctrinal differences such as papal infallibility. Dr. E. H. Eatson, president of the Baptist Union of New South Wales, joined Loane in the boycott.
At a second open-air Mass at Randwick, Paul told 150,000 students that their dissatisfaction with the “permissive society” was “a ray of light.” “In that society there are unfortunately every day more aggressive acts, new attitudes, and behavior patterns that are not Christian,” he said.
The Pope was to start the long flight back to Rome aboard his chartered DC-8 December 3 after stops in Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Colombo.
Controversy over a Radio Hanoi broadcast by black pastor Phillip Lawson, executive director of the United Methodist Inner City Parish in Kansas City, led western Missouri Methodists to ax the parish and slate Lawson for severe ministerial discipline. Shock waves of liberal dissent jolted national headquarters, causing intervention by the denomination’s bishops.
In October the Missouri West Methodist Conference suspended Lawson’s appointment to the parish, but the twenty-three-member parish board in a split vote refused to oust him. So last month the conference’s 600 delegates voted more than two to one to sever all ties to the parish, including $50,000 of funding. The parish consists of three black congregations, including St. James’, pastored by Lawson.
The conference actions came on the heels of national publicity about a Hanoi radio speech by Lawson during a recent visit to North Viet Nam. Lawson urged black GI’s to disobey their “racist white officers” by refusing to fight, and he challenged them to “join the Vietnamese forces for independence, freedom, and justice here.” (News sources said that the Fellowship of Reconciliation arranged his trip, billed as a “mission of peace and good will,” and that costs were paid by the women’s unit of the national Methodist misssions board and by the denomination’s social-concerns board.)
Earlier, the mission and its director were reviewed by the federal jury that was investigating Black Panther party activities across the nation. The parish had contributed money to Panther programs in Kansas City and had employed several Panthers on its staff (see April 24 issue, page 41).
The broadcast was the last straw for even some white ministers who had backed Lawson on the Panther issue. One labeled Lawson’s secrecy about it “an inexcusable breach of faith.”
It was also the last straw for many lay members. “Lay reaction has caused a financial crisis in the church,” commented the chairman of the conference finance commission.
The conference in last month’s vote elected to establish a new type of mission in urban areas. The parish board chairman meanwhile said the parish would attempt to find other financing but might have to drop “Methodist” from its name.
Angry black staffers from national headquarters aired their objections at the Missouri meetings. The actions, they argued, would define ministry from a viewpoint of a “white, middle-class, Anglo-Saxon culture.”
This month the conference planned to act on a recommendation from its Board of Ministry that Lawson be placed under official discipline and censure. In protest, an undetermined number of ministers requested a review of their own ministerial orders. And pressure at the national level sent the Methodist bishops, meeting in Oregon, into executive session. Afterward Bishop Eugene Frank announced he would cancel the censure meeting but would provide time for Lawson’s fellow ministers to make “any formal charges” in accordance with due process. The intervention cooled but did not douse the conflagration.
JAMES S. TINNEY
Urban Problems Hit Jews
Despite the close-knitness of Jewish life, Jews in the United States are experiencing the same problems of generation gaps and drug abuse as Christians. Delegates to the Thirty-ninth General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations heard Philip Bernstein, executive vice-president of the council, single out drug abuse among adolescent Jews as a major problem.
“Jewish youths are far from immune to this disease that plagues America. We must get to the roots as well as symptoms and find preventions and cures,” he said.
Mideast concerns occupied a major part of the meeting, held in Kansas City and attended by 1,500 Jewish communal leaders from the United States and Canada. Two other problem areas for Jewry are the Soviet Union and North Africa. Herman Wiseman, president of the Zionist Organization of America and the Jewish National Fund, pointed out that three million Jews in Russia are still being denied the right to worship and the privilege of emigration. He added that another 200,000 Jews “are being forced to live in terrible conditions in certain Muslim countries of Africa, and are denied the right to leave.”
JAMES S. TINNEY
A “first ever” meeting of evangelicals and Jews in Toronto heard Billy Graham Evangelistic Association representative Roy Gustafson speak on “Israel’s Destiny as Seen in the Scriptures.”
The congregation of about 2,200–60 per cent of them Jews—in St. Paul’s Anglican Church November 30 received Gustafson’s fifty-minute speech enthusiastically, and applauded the showing of the film His Land, which has an evangelistic ending.
Gustafson steered away from references to the Messiah. “The purpose of these gatherings,” he said, “is to create an understanding among Christians for Israel and to stress the debt that the Christian community owes to the Jew.”
Toronto Jewish leader Max Goody presented Gustafson with a scroll containing 2,000 signatures inviting Graham to address an even larger future gathering.
LESLIE K. TARR
Filling In The Blanks
The General Commission on Church Union in Canada is anxious to have a name for the denomination that will result from the merger of the Anglican, United, and Disciple churches. Otherwise, observed one commissioner, it might come to be known as the “Blankety-blank Church.”
Five names are likely to be submitted for consideration: Church of Christ in Canada, United Christian Church in Canada, the United Episcopal Church in Canada, and United Episcopal Church of Christ in Canada.
One suggested name, Church of Canada, was promptly dropped when some objected that it was “supremely arrogant.”
Another surprising development in the church-union talks was the unanimous vote in favor of ordaining women to all levels of ministry in the new church, including the office of bishop.
No deadline has been set for a decision on the name, but, with present plans calling for a plan of union in 1972, the verdict should be soon.
Anyone for the Blankety-blank Church?
LESLIE K. TARR
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