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Maria Ressa (L) and Dmitry Muratov with the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, on 10 Dec. 2021.   Maria Ressa (L) and Dmitry Muratov with the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, on 10 Dec. 2021.   (ANSA)

Philippine bishops see in Nobel laureate “a little glimpse of hope”

Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan found parallels between the message of the Third Sunday of Advent and the speech of Maria Ressa, the first Nobel Peace laureate of the Philippines.

By Robin Gomes

The new president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) regards the awarding of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for the first time to a Filipino as a “little glimpse of hope”.

Glimmer of Hope

"For the first time in our history, a Filipino journalist was awarded a Nobel Prize for Peace. As I listened to her speech…, I felt something lighting up inside me. It gave me that little glimpse of hope that Gaudete Sunday is about in this penitential season of Advent,” Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan said at Mass on Sunday. 

Bishop David, who assumed office as CBCP president on 1 December, began his homily referring to Maria Ressa of the Philippines, who along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were jointly awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize at a formal ceremony on Friday in Oslo, Norway. 

On announcing the winners earlier on 8 October, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said it “decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”.  “Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” the Nobel Committee said in its citation.

Facing odds for the sake of peace

Bishop David, who listened to Ressa’s acceptance speech, recalled the words, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’, the starting line of the Mass of the 3rd Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday, after the Latin word ‘gaudete’ for “rejoice’.  He said Saint Paul invites the Philippians to replace their anxieties with a profound sense of peace which surpasses all understanding.  "The true advocates of peace in this world are those who have had to face a lot of odds and adversities,” the bishop said, pointing to Nobel Laureates such as Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Lech Walesa of Poland, or Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.  They have been “subjected to so much violence".

Listen to a brief excerpt from Bishop David's homily

The price of truth

He drew attention to Ressa’s questions to every citizen in the world: "What are you willing to sacrifice for the truth?".  Her question sounded like the voice of “another courageous truth-teller, John the Baptist” or the prophet Micah who said, “You have been told, Oh mortal, what is good and what the Lord requires of you – only to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

The Bishop of Kalookan said the prophets invite us to "find the good that is already in us", letting emerge "that innate sense of generosity that moves you to share your food with the hungry”. It is “that inner sense of justice and compassion that restrains you from exploiting the weak and the vulnerable”; that inner sense of truth that will make you hold the line against lies and falsehoods.

Distortion of truth

The 62-year-old bishop recalled the key passage of Maria Ressa's acceptance lecture. She said, "Our greatest need today is to transform that hate and violence, the toxic sludge that’s coursing through our information ecosystem; that just means we have to work harder.”   “We have to believe there is good in the world", she stressed, expressing her firm conviction that "our humanity makes miracles happen".

Bishop David said Ressa warns against narratives founded on lies, repeated by armies of trolls on social media that, in the end, take the place of the truth.  These techniques often manage to shape public opinion and threaten the very life of democracies. In this framework, the bishop asserted, "God sends us people who are like little sparks of light that give us a glimpse of hope in the midst of darkness".

The light of Christ shines

In the season of Advent, he continued, "we live a glimpse of the future in the present, and a resolve to work for its realization for the sake of the next generation". "The light, for us, is the divinity shining out in the humanity of Jesus Christ… on those in darkness in the shadow of death… and to guide our feet into the way of peace,” Bishop David added.

When the Nobel Prize was announced in early October, the CBCP had congratulated Ressa for her efforts “to safeguard freedom of expression”.  “Our recent Popes have on occasions highlighted the important role that the press plays in gauging the health of a healthy democratic society.  It is not a surprise, then, that the Church ‘find the right esteem for your work and the recognition of the freedom of the press’,” said the former CBCP president, Archbishop Valles, in a statement.

14 December 2021, 12:58