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Gold medalist weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz inspires the Philippines with her victory and Catholic devotion

July 27, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz proudly displays her Olympics gold medal and the Miraculous Medal, a devotional medallion depicting the Virgin Mary. / Hidilyn Diaz’s Instagram Stories

Manila, Philippines, Jul 27, 2021 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

Philippine Catholic bishops congratulated the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, not only for her victory but for her show of faith and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Diaz’s triumph came in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting event on July 26. She also set an Olympic record after lifting a combined weight of 224 kilograms.

After completing her final lift in a very close competition, Diaz held her hands to her face, burst into tears and clutched at her Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging from her neck.

“Thank you, Lord, thank you Lord,” she cried repeatedly after the winning lift.

Later on the podium at the medals ceremony, Diaz pointed heavenward after singing the Philippine national anthem, then made the Sign of the Cross before stepping down and shouting “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!” (“Long live the Philippines!”)

Diaz’s inspirational victory and public display of her Catholic faith touched the hearts of church leaders and Filipino Catholics watching from home and quickly went viral on social media.

“We admire her devotion to the Blessed Mother as she carried in her victory her great faith in God,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the country’s bishops’ conference. “Hidilyn is a true weightlifter who draws her strength from her love for the country and her deep Catholic faith.”

Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila said Diaz has given inspiration to all Filipinos.

“Thank you, Hidilyn, for the tremendous honor you have bestowed on our country,” he said via Church-run Radio Veritas.

“Your success gives light, inspiration, and hope to all of us, especially in these difficult times,” he continued. “Thank you for the testimony of your strong faith in God and deep love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thank you for reminding us that there is no real success if it does not come from God.”

In a media interview on July 27, Diaz said her Miraculous Medal was given to her by friends before she departed for Tokyo earlier this month.

“They prayed a novena for nine days before my competition,” she told reporters, adding that she prayed a novena herself and is grateful for all the support her “prayer warriors” have given her.

A novena is a popular Catholic spiritual devotion consisting of the recitation of a set form of prayer for nine consecutive days, in petition for a divine favor or in preparation for a liturgical feast or as participation in an important event such as a Year of Jubilee.

Diaz said the religious medal is “a sign of our prayers and faith in Mama Mary and Jesus Christ,” adding that her faith in God is the major reason for her success. 

Diaz is the fifth of six children of a poor trike driver in a small village in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga.

In previous media interviews, the future Olympic gold medalist said that when she was a child she wanted to be a banker so that her mother would stop complaining about the lack of money.

A cousin, however, introduced the then-10-year old girl to weightlifting by training her with makeshift barbells made from plastic pipes with cast concrete weights at either end.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People of the bishops’ conference said Diaz’s victory showed that Filipinos can rise up to any challenge with God’s help.

“[S]he has shown to us that the Filipino can. We can rise up from all challenges in life. We can surmount all obstacles,” said the bishop.


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News Briefs

Philippine bishops support pope’s letter on traditional liturgies

July 22, 2021 Catholic News Agency 1
Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila (right) is led to his cathedra inside the
Manila Cathedral by Archbishop Charles Brown, papal nuncio to the
Philippines, during the cardinal’s installation as new prelate of the
Archdiocese of Manila on June 24, 2021. / Jose Torres Jr. / LiCAS News

Manila, Philippines, Jul 22, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued a statement on Thursday supporting Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis custodes, which restricted the use of traditional liturgies.

“We express our obedience to and communion with the Supreme Pontiff as he leads us in the realization of the unity of the Church by means of the proclamation of the Gospel and in a particular manner in the celebration of the Eucharist,” said the Philippine bishops in a July 22 statement.

On July 16, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter “motu proprio” regarding “the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970.” In his letter Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis said that it is now each bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the Latin Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal in his diocese. 

A motu proprio, literally “of his own accord,” refers to a document issued by the pope on his own initiative and personally signed by him.

The letter made changes to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum. That 2007 letter had acknowledged the right of all priests to say the Traditional Latin Mass, and stated they did not need permission of their local ordinary to do so.

Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal is also referred to as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass.

In their July 22 statement, the Filipino bishops said, “We reiterate the appeal of Pope Francis that ‘every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities.’” 

They added that as “guardians of the tradition,” according to the title of the papal document, each bishop as “moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole liturgical life of the particular Church” must “implement the provisions of the motu proprio with utmost care, patience, justice and pastoral charity.”

The pope’s motu proprio establishes that “the liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi [the law of prayer] of the Roman Rite.”

Quoting from the pope’s letter, the Filipino bishops said that seminarians and new priests should “be formed in the faithful observance of the prescriptions of the Missal and liturgical books, in which is reflected the liturgical reform willed by Vatican Council II.”

The bishops said the motu proprio “gives us the guidelines on the modified use of the 1962 Roman Missal.”

Since the promulgation of Traditionis custodes, some bishops from other parts of the world have said that priests may continue to offer the Traditional Latin Mass in their dioceses, while others have restricted it in some parishes or banned it outright, as in Costa Rica.

Last year, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation asked the world’s bishops to report on how Summorum Pontificum was being applied in their dioceses, through a nine-point survey. 

“The apostolic letter is a fruit of the consultation with the Conferences of Bishops in 2020 and the recommendations made accordingly by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” the Filipino bishops stated on Thursday. 


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Filipino bishops elect government critic as conference president

July 9, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Bishop Pablo Virgilio Siongco David of Kalookan, who was elected president of the Filipino bishops’ conference July 8, speaks in Manila Sept. 1, 2019. Credit: Gerard Carreon for LiCAS.news.

Manila, Philippines, Jul 9, 2021 / 11:31 am (CNA).

The Filipino bishops’ conference on Thursday elected Bishop Pablo Virgilio Siongco David of Kalookan, a staunch critic of the government’s war on drugs, as its president.

The conference elected Bishop David July 8 during its biannual plenary assembly. He had been vice president of the conference since 2017.

Since taking office on June 30, 2016, Philippine President Duterte has carried out a war on drugs that has resulted in the deaths of close to 30,000 suspected drug users and peddlers, according to Human Rights Watch.

Filipino authorities, however, said only 5,903 individuals were killed in police anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2020. 

Human Rights Watch maintained that the number did not include the deaths of those killed by unidentified gunmen who are believed to operate in cooperation with local police and officials.

Kilusang Mayo Uno, a trade union center, lauded the election of Bishop David, saying that he has “always sided with the poor and the oppressed, particularly the victims of extrajudicial killings.”

“Amidst the chaos brought about by the current health and economic crisis, we were greeted with positive news of Bishop [David]’s election.”

“Just as he continues fighting for human rights, we hope that he also works hand in hand with the workers in advocating for labor rights,” read the group’s statement.

Bong Labog, chairperson of the labor center, said the Filipino labor movement hopes that Bishop David will join in the campaign “for a just and livable national minimum wage, government aid and support for all.”

 

“As attacks on workers continue to intensify under the Duterte regime, we need more exemplary figures like Bishop [David] who will stand firmly against state repression,” said Labog.

He said Bishop David “can lead the way for the Catholic Church to unite as an institution that will stand up against corruption, criminality and brutality especially on unabated killings.”

Akbayan, a democractic socialist party, described Bishop David as “a person of integrity and has lived his life exemplifying a spirit of service to others.”

“This is a welcome development,” the group said in a statement.

“His long track record in defending human rights, and his staunch and consistent opposition to extrajudicial killings makes him the ideal leader of the [bishops’ conference] to help lead the Church and shepherd its flock back to the path of democracy,” it added.

Bishop David has been the target of the ire of Duterte in the past. He was among several priests and bishops who were accused of sedition by the government. The charges have since been dropped.

The prelate had also received several death threats following his condemnation of the spate of killings in the country.

In 2018, Duterte accused Bishop David of corruption. “You, David, you be quiet. You go on asking for contributions. … Where does the people’s money go?” the president said.

“You don’t have to go to church to pay for these idiots,” said Duterte, referring to bishops who have condemned the wave of drug-related killings in the country.

Bishop David has repeatedly asked the Filipino faithful to pray for Duterte because he is a “very sick man.” He made the statement after the president called saints “fools” and “drunkards.”

Bishop David’s pronouncement angered the president, who said the bishop “might be into drugs.”

Reacting to Duterte’s statement, Bishop David posted on Facebook: “No sir, I’m not into drugs of any sort, whether legal or illegal. Never been.”

“I only help in rehabilitating people addicted to drugs … Thank God I am not even taking any maintenance drugs yet,” the bishop said.

Bishop David, 62, was born in Betis in Pampanga province. 

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of San Fernando in 1983, at the age of 24, and was appointed auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese in 2006. 

His episcopal consecration took place July 10, 2006, and he was appointed Bishop of Kalookan in 2015.


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