By Robin Gomes
According to Grace Relucio-Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the Holy See, some of the issues raised by Pope Francis are issues that affect the Filipinos. In an interview to Vatican News on the Pope’s state-of-the-world address to the diplomatic corps on Monday, Jan. 7, to exchange New Year’s greetings with the ambassadors, she said what appealed to her most in the Pope’s speech were the issues of migration, the environment and inter-faith dialogue.
Relucio-Princesa pointed out that the Philippines, that is home to Asia’s largest Catholic community, has migration, environmental as well as inter-faith issues.
The 62-year old diplomat expressed satisfaction that the Pope commended the Global Compact on Migration that was signed in Marrakech, Morocco, December 10 and 11. She said the diplomats and countries were together in supporting the Compact and felt it was important for her to focus on what the Pope is talking about so they can synergize.
Ambassador Relucio-Princesa, who is a widow and mother of 5 children, pointed out that with almost 200,000 Filipinos in Italy, migration is also a Filipino issue. She mentioned that when she began her diplomatic mission to the Holy See on Sept. 1, she told the Holy Father that “migration can lead to development.” And in this regard, she said, she hopes to deepen the 5 Fs that she has formulated for Filipino migrants - faith, family, “
Faith, inter-faith issues
A devout Catholic, Relucio-Princesa is engaged with several Church movements. She said faith is needed if Filipinos consider themselves as new missionaries of the world to both Christians and Muslims.
She attends inter-faith events. She said that during her several years in the Middle East, particularly as ambassador to the UAE (2009-2015), she observed that without the presence of Filipino and Indian Christians, “churches would become bars, restaurants and museums.” “Because the Indians and the Filipinos are there in the diaspora, we keep the Church alive.”
The Philippine ambassador said that migrant Christians should realize their call to spirituality. She said that in her talks to Filipino communities she tries to help deepen this knowledge and awareness. In this, she also tried to involve priests, nuns, religious and the whole migration sector. This multi-sectoral approach, she said, involves the migrants, the government, the NGOs, faith-based groups, the academics, the private sector and the media. Together they can find out whether they are really “walking the faith” because the Gospel says “if we love God we have to love others, especially the least, the last and the lost.”
She believes that Filipino migrants have a particular challenge in life because it affects the family, which is the second of the “5 Fs” that she has formulated for migrant Filipinos, namely, faith, family, “
Environment and migrants
Commenting on the protection of the environment, an issue of great concern of Pope Francis, the Philippine ambassador said her country ranks No. 3 in the world in terms of vulnerability to climate change, global warming, typhoons and natural disasters that affect the people, their livelihood and the economy. She feels people should listen to Pope Francis on these issues, starting with the migrants.
Relucio-Princesa said that migrants are exposed to new ideas and additional amounts of money. She is advising Filipino migrants to build “disaster-resilient” homes with abaca, or Manila hemp, an exceptionally strong natural fibre that is water-resistant and has a variety of uses. For this reason, she wears a wristband made of what she describes as the “strongest natural renewable fibre in the world”.
She said the Filipino community has to define itself in the context of the world, migration, disaster and also in the context of inter-faith relations because the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation that also has 10 million Muslims and other communities among its population.
The ambassador concluded saying that some of the issues that Pope Francis raised are also issues that affect the Filipinos.