Wednesday, June 24, 2009


MY attention was again caught by a recent communiqué from the Vatican Press Office reiterating that the priests and bishops of the Society of St.Pius X—founded by the former French Abp.Marcel Lefebvre—“do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.” The clarification came “in response to the frequent questions that have been raised over recent days concerning the priestly ordinations…scheduled to take place at the end of June.” As reported by Zenit, Lefebvrite Bishop Alfonse de Galaretta—whose excommunication by John Paul II due to his Episcopal ordination without Papal mandate was recently lifted by Pope Benedict XVI—is scheduled to ordain three priests and three deacons in the society’s Zaitskofen seminary in Bavaria (Germany) on June 27, 2009.

The question in the mind of many Catholics is: If the excommunications of the four bishops ordained by Lefebvre have been lifted, what is the significance of the Vatican statement, which quoted the Pope’s letter sent to bishops in March, concerning his remission of the excommunication of the four bishops concerned. In that letter, Benedict XVI had clearly declared: "As long as the Society (of St. Pius X) does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. ... Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers ... do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."

Hierarchical Communion

The Church was founded on the pillars of the Apostles who, by the foundational will of Jesus Christ, were constituted into a College. The reason and foundation of such a collegiate body was Peter (Petra = “the rock”): “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mt.16, 18). It was on this College that Christ gave the sacred power to teach, sanctify and govern his flock which was going to be the Church—first giving Peter “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 16, 19); and later extending to all the Apostles the power to teach and govern in His name and the power to forgive sins (Jn 20, 23). It was on this Apostolic College of the Twelve—Judas Iscariot having been replaced by Matthias (Acts 1, 15-26)—that the Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost, appearing as tongues of fire on their heads (Acts 2, 1-13). Finally, it was by this Apostolic College of the Twelve Apostles that “about three thousand souls” were baptized, after hearing Peter’s discourse that very day of Pentecost (Acts 2, 14-41).

The exercise of the sacred ministry by the ordained ministers—bishops, priests and deacons—is the exercise of that sacred power that Christ invested on the Apostles by the infusion of the Holy Spirit on that first Easter and Pentecost. By the unbroken line connecting every bishop with an Apostle, the former shares in that sacred power invested on the latter, such that—in persona Christi capitis (in the person of Christ the Head)—he can teach, sanctify and govern Christ’s faithful. In fact, the development and auto-organization of the Church is really the result of the interplay of the ministerial priesthood (of the bishops and, in union and communion with them, the priests and deacons) delivering the sources of salvation (the Word of God and the Sacraments) to the community of believers. In other words, the Church grows as a development of the interplay of the ministerial priesthood and the royal priesthood, such that the one Church of Christ is like a living body where all the cells (Christ’s faithful) are nourished and innervated by the nervous and circulatory systems (the Hierarchy).

The Missio canonica: juridic expression of Hierarchical Communion

Without the hierarchical communion—of each priest with his Bishop, and every Bishop (a successor of the Apostles) with the Pope (the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ)—there can be no genuine pastoral care in the Church. Theologically this is a doctrine replete with meaning and even imagery: “I am the vine, you are the branches…without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15, 5); or “I am the door of the sheep. All whoever have come are thieves and robbers; but the sheep have not heard them…The thief comes only to steal, and slay, and destroy” (Jn 10, 7/9). The one Catholic Church of Christ exists wherever there is a Pastor (a successor of the Apostles), helped by priests and deacons united to him, effectively ministers to a body of believers. There is effective pastoral care whenever a line can be established between each faithful, passing through an ordained minister (priest or deacon), to a proper Pastor—either a bishop (as in a diocese) or even a priest endowed with Episcopal functions (as in a personal prelature or an Apostolic Administrator).

The theological reality of hierarchical communion is expressed juridically in the institution of the so-called missio canonica, through which a sacred minister—who is ontologically capacitated, by the reception of Holy Orders, to carry out a function in persona Christi capitis—is effectively endowed by the Episcopal College (the successor of the Apostolic College), either as such or by its visible head who is the Pope, with a specific participation in that sacred power invested on it by Christ, to be exercised over a specific flock of Christ’s faithful. Thus, the sacred minister is effectively constituted into a pastor of souls.

Conversely, without the missio canonica, even an ordained person—who by that fact is ontologically capacitated to share in the threefold ministry of Christ of teaching, sanctifying and leading the faithful—would lack the authority to fulfill a pastoral role in the Church of Christ.

The Case of the Society of St.Pius X

With the foregoing discussion, it is easier to understand the full import of the above-mentioned Vatican statement: As long as the Society (of St. Pius X) does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.

The four bishops ordained by Abp. Marcel Lefebvre were all validly ordained. Their automatic excommunication (subsequently declared by the Holy See), due to their having been ordained against the expressed prohibition of the Holy See, has even been lifted by the Holy Father early this year. But they lack hierarchical communion.

Because of their illegitimate consecration to the episcopate, the four Lefebvrite bishops never received a missio canonica from the Holy See. They never formed part of the Catholic Hierarchy and were never given a specific flock to shepherd, and thus never received the authority to effectively carry out that function.

Moreover, the continued rejection by the Society of St. Pius X of the validity and authority of the Second Vatican Council remains a stumbling block to their being given such canonical mission. This is the reason for the above-mentioned continuation of the Vatican Statement: Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers ... do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

Reasons for hope.

Despite all the foregoing discussion, there are reasons for hope in a full reconciliation of the schism brought about by Abp. Lefebvre. In effect, the aforementioned Vatican communiqué also confirmed that the restructuring of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei should come about soon. That commission was established by Pope John Paul II to facilitate the full ecclesial communion of those people linked in various ways to the fraternity founded by Lefebvre who desire to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church.

In his March letter, Benedict XVI announced his intention to change the status of the commission and make it part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the dicastery the Holy Father led before his election to the See of Peter. As the Vatican communiqué announced: This constitutes a premise for launching dialogue with the leaders of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, with a view to clarifying the doctrinal questions, and consequently the disciplinary questions, which remain unresolved.

In other words, by putting the Pontifical Commission in charge of re-establishing communion with the Society of St. Pius X under the dicastery (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) competent to study doctrinal matters, the Holy See hopes to facilitate ironing out the doctrinal questions that stand in the way of full communion. As we start the Year for the Priests, we can only redouble our prayers that such work of doctrinal clarification indeed bears fruit soon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Shepherding an Itinerant Flock (Part I)

A Survey of Current Institutions & Jurisdictional Structures
for the Pastoral Care of Filipino Migrant Workers.


Even Church documents recognize that today’s migration makes up the vastest movement of people of all times. “In these last decades—the latest major document affirms—the phenomenon, now involving about two hundred million individuals worldwide, has turned into a structural reality of contemporary society. It is becoming an increasingly complex problem from the social, cultural, political, religious, economic and pastoral points of view.”

The Philippine Culture of Migration and the Ecclesial Response.

Closer to our topic, since the 1970s the Philippines has supplied all kinds of skilled and low-skilled workers to the world's more developed regions. As of December 2004, an estimated 8.1 million Filipinos—nearly 10 % of the country's 85 million people—were working and/or residing in close to 200 countries and territories. As one expert on Filipino migration would affirm: “In the last 30 years, a culture of migration has emerged, with millions of Filipinos eager to work abroad, despite the risks and vulnerabilities they are likely to face.”

On one hand, this same expert continues, “the development of a culture of migration in the Philippines has been greatly aided by migration's institutionalization. The government facilitates migration, regulates the operations of the recruitment agencies, and looks out for the rights of its migrant workers. More importantly, the remittances workers send homes have become a pillar of the country's economy.”

On the other hand, the phenomenon of Filipino migrant workers—more commonly referred to as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)—does not seem to be something temporary. On the contrary, if at all it seems to be a phenomenon which is on the rise and destined to become more significant in the near and middle-term future. As such, it is something that the Philippine hierarchy cannot fail to attend to, especially since majority of the OFWs, as is the Philippine population at large, are faithful of the Catholic Church.

The ecclesial dimension of this phenomenon is a veritable challenge to the Philippine hierarchy. In effect, while the positive economic effects of the millions of OFWs— religiously remitting their hard-earned foreign currency to their families at home—are undeniable, it is equally undeniable that many of these souls are oftentimes in quite precarious situations. While the Philippine Government has taken important steps towards institutionalizing Philippine labor migration—to the point that the Philippines has been cited as an international model for best practices in migration policy—the ecclesiastical response to the OFW phenomenon leaves much to be desired. Many OFWs, especially in those countries of Catholic minority or where there is no Catholic hierarchy, are literally like sheep without shepherds, relying solely on the isolated missionaries or chaplains who may succeed in accompanying them in their place of oversees employment.

In this article, I would like to focus on the possible solutions to the pastoral problems posed by the aforementioned phenomenon of Philippine labor migration. In the process, I hope to go beyond simply solving the problem posed by the Filipino migrant workers, and—following the lines of the familiar SWOT analysis in management—to look at how to convert an erstwhile weakness into a veritable opportunity, an ecclesial problem into a factor for evangelization.

In short, making a sneak preview of the conclusion of this article, and very much in line with this year’s 2000th Anniversary of St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, I would like to explore the possibilities offered by Canon Law to squarely face the challenge of adequately shepherding the itinerant flock of OFWs, so as to convert them into effective agents of evangelization—in much the same way that St Paul and the early Christians, forced into the diaspora by the persecution of the Jews in Palestine, became the intrepid sowers of the seeds of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire.

Limiting the Discussion

Before proceeding further, I would like to limit the scope of the discussion not only to a more manageable level, but to what in my mind is the more relevant aspect as far as the OFWs are concerned.

In effect, Church documents on the subject of the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people have always made a distinction between the Church of origin (ecclesia a qua) and the host Church (ecclesia ad quam). Insofar as the Philippines is basically a labor exporting country, rather than a host country for migrants (whether workers or otherwise), the canonico-pastoral criteria and norms regarding host countries are of limited application.

Thus, the canonico-pastoral issue connected with the OFWs can be conveniently pared down to two: (1) the care of the Filipino migrant workers themselves in their respective countries of deployment; (2) the care of the families that the Filipino migrant workers leave behind in the Philippines. With respect to the latter, I am of the opinion that their pastoral needs do not really present any significant complications as to warrant a separate canonico-pastoral treatment—i.e., distinct from the cura ordinaria animarum provided by the particular Churches through the territorial parishes in the Philippines. Thus, I would like to limit this discussion to the care of the OFWs themselves in their respective countries of deployment.

Finally, the canonico-pastoral orientations and norms applicable to the case of OFWs in their countries of deployment can be divided into two kinds: (1) those addressed to the host Church (ad quam) if and where such ecclesiastical hierarchy exists; (2) those addressed to the Church of origin (a qua)—i.e., the Catholic Church in the Philippines. Now then, since—realistically and practically speaking—there is little we can really do as regards the Churches ad quam, I would like to focus this discussion on what the Church Hierarchy in the Philippines—either as individual dioceses or as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines collectively—can do in order to better take care of the OFWs.

A final distinction is in order. On the one hand are those Overseas Filipinos (OFs) who are stably migrated—i.e., mostly with resident visas or even dual citizenships, presently numbering around 3.7 million—and are therefore already incorporated to the particular Churches (host Churches) where they are. On the other hand are the so-called overseas contract workers (OCWs)—presently numbering 4.1 million—usually on two-year contracts, albeit renewable but also rescindable at a moment’s notice for a host of reasons, including the unstable political situation in their areas of deployment. Given that the latest official records place the number of Overseas Filipinos at 8.7 million, the unaccounted balance of 900 thousand would have to be comprised of what have been referred to as illegals. It is this group of 4.1 million OCWs and 0.9 million illegals who I would henceforth refer as OFWs, since one and the other are all Filipinos, overseas and working one way or another. These are the 5 million unstably migrated Filipinos, who are in dire need of pastoral care.

I. A Brief Historial Review of the Ecclesial Response
to the Phenomenon of Human Mobility

A. Early Attempts at Pastoral Care of Migrants: Pius XII’s Exsul Familia (1952)

The efforts of the Church to take care of the spiritual needs of Catholic migrants in the past 150 years have been concretized in various initiatives on the part of the common faithful, of religious institutes and of the Hierarchy itself. Initially, members of the clergy had accompanied groups setting off abroad to colonize new lands, but from the middle of the 19th Century onwards, the pastoral care of migrants was entrusted more frequently to missionary Congregations.

More at the hierarchical-jurisdictional level, the first initiatives addressed immediate needs. For instance, in 1914 Pope Pius X erected a seminary for the formation of priests destined for the pastoral care of Italian immigrants, although it was not inaugurated until 1920 due to the outbreak of World War I. This same year, a proper Prelate was constituted for the Italian immigrants. Meanwhile in 1918, a sole Ordinary had also been constituted for the Catholic refugees (mostly from eastern Europe) in Italy.

At the normative level, the growing concern of the Holy See was concretized in 1914 when the Consistorial Congregation (later to become the Congregation for Bishops) issued the decree Etnographica studia, which laid down the praxis to be followed by the clergy dedicated to the pastoral care of immigrants and underscored the responsibility of the host Church (ecclesia ad quam) of providing pastoral care to the faithful from other nations.

The Pontificate of Pius XII witnessed an upsurge in human migration, occasioned by World War II and its aftermath, and consequently also a marked development in the pastoral care of migrants. A landmark document was the Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia, of 1.VIII.1952, generally regarded as the Magna Carta for the pastoral activity of the Church in favor of people on the move. It was the first document of the Holy See to delineate the pastoral care of migrants globally and systematically, from both the historical and canonical points of view. In that document, Pius XII tried to mitigate the territorial principle rigidly in place in the Pio-Benedictine Code, by giving a series of competencies to the Consistorial Congregation and establishing a series of offices—both at the national and local levels—thus laying the groundwork for a pastoral organization—still partially in force today—to provide people on the move the spiritual care more fitting to their circumstances. For example, in 1952 he established the Higher Council for Emigration within the aforementioned Sacred Congregation. In the same year, the Apostolatus Maris was established on behalf of seafarers in the same dicastery. Finally, in 1958 he gave the same dicastery the responsibility for providing spiritual assistance to the faithful with specific duties and activities on board planes as well as to passengers travelling by air, establishing what was called the Apostolatus Coeli or Aëris.

B. The Era of Vatican II: Paul VI’s Erga migratorum cura and the Instruction Nemo est (1969)

The Second Vatican Council brought great innovations as regards the pastoral principles in favor of migrants: (1) by explicitly declaring the responsibility of the pastors towards those faithful who may have difficulty in receiving the ordinary pastoral care provided by the local churches; (2) by introducing new criteria for ecclesiastical organization, other than the strictly territorial one; and (3) by offering a new vision of the People of God and the constitutional situation of its members, more specifically the so-called fundamental rights and duties of the faithful. We shall deal more at length with this matter further on.

In 1969, Pope Paul VI issued the Motu Proprio Pastoralis migratorum cura and authorized the subsequent Instruction De pastorali migratorum cura (sometimes cited by its opening words Nemo est), aimed at adapting the dispositions of the Pius XII’s Exsul Familia to the new ecclesiological principles of Vatican II.

On 19 March 1970, with the Motu Proprio Apostolicae Caritatis, Pope Paul VI established the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, with the task of studying and providing pastoral care to “people on the move” such as: migrants, exiles, refugees, displaced people, fishermen and seafarers, air travellers, road transport workers, nomads, circus people, fairground workers, pilgrims and tourists, as well as those categories of people who, for various reasons, are involved in human mobility, such as students abroad, and operators and technicians engaged in large projects or scientific research at the international level who are obliged to move from one country to another.

C. Pastoral Care of Migrants in the Third Millennium: The Instruction Erga migrantes (2004)

Such concern grew during the pontificate of John Paul II, as shown by the creation of a separate dicastery for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people , the Pope’s discourses in the World Day of Migrants, the new regulation for the apostolate of the sea and other documents.

Taking into consideration the new migration flows and their characteristics, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People issued on 3.V.2004 the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi, which aimed to update the ecclesiastical doctrine and praxis regarding the pastoral care of migration, thirty-five years after the publication of Pope Paul VI’s Motu Proprio Pastoralis migratorum cura and the Congregation for Bishops’ related Instruction De pastorali migratorum cura (Nemo est). It can very well be considered as the new magna carta for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people in the Third Millennium.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shepherding an Itinerant Flock (Part II)

A Survey of Current Institutions & Jurisdictional Structures
for the Pastoral Care of Filipino Migrant Workers.

IN the first part of this article, we defined the problem we wish to address—i.e., the pastoral care of the 5 million OFWs—and made a brief historical background of the ecclesial response to the phenomenon of migrants in general. In the second part, we focused on the principles for the adequate pastoral care of migrants. In this third and final part of this article, we shall focus on the possible structures for the adequate pastoral care of OFWs.

III. A Survey of Current Institutions & Jurisdictional Structures for the Pastoral Care of OFWs by the Philippine Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.

After all the previous considerations, we are ready to understand better the actual provisions of Canon Law—most recently resumed in Part II: Juridical Pastoral Guidelines, of the Instruction Erga migrantes of 2004—as regards the pastoral care of migrants, applicable to our present study as we delimited it—i.e., the pastoral care of Filipino OFWs that can be carried out either unilaterally by the Philippine Hierarchy (or at most with the recognition of the Holy See) or by the Apostolic See, with little dependence on a host Church which may either be non-existent or hardly capable of collaborating in the pastoral care of Filipino OFWs in those areas where they are presently deployed.

A. Chaplains/Missionaries for Migrants

The original figure to provide pastoral attention to migrants were individual priests, who were simply denominated chaplains or missionaries for migrants. They could either be secular or religious, and are treated in Erga migrantes, Part II as follows.

Art.4: [Notion of Chaplains/Missionaries for Migrants]
§1. Presbyters who have been given the mandate by the competent ecclesiastical authority to provide spiritual assistance in a stable way to migrants of the same language or nation, or belonging to the same Church sui iuris, are called chaplains/missionaries for migrants; in virtue of their office they are endowed with the faculties described in c.566,§1 of the CIC.
§2. This office should be conferred on a presbyter who has been well prepared by a suitable period of formation and who for reasons of virtue, culture and knowledge of the language and other moral and spiritual gifts, demonstrates that he is a suitable person for this particular and difficult task.

Art.5 [Missio canonica of chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]
§1. To those presbyters who wish to devote themselves to the spiritual assistance of migrants, the diocesan or eparchial bishop should give authorization to do so if he considers them suited to this mission, in accordance with what is laid down in CIC, c.271 and CCEO, cc.361-362 and in these present juridical pastoral regulations.
§2. Presbyters, who have obtained due permission as explained in the preceding paragraph, should make themselves available to the Episcopal Conference ad quam, furnished with the relevant document granted to them by their own diocesan or eparchial bishop and their own Episcopal Conference, or by the competent hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches. The Episcopal Conference ad quam will then ensure that these presbyters are entrusted to the diocesan or eparchial bishop or to the bishops of the dioceses or eparchies concerned, who will appoint them chaplains/missionaries to the migrants.
§3. As far as religious presbyters who dedicate themselves to assisting migrants are concerned, the specific norms contained in Chapter III have to be applied.

It must be pointed out that as far as the Philippine Hierarchy is concerned, they can only authorize individual priests to go as chaplains/missionaries. The specific missio canonica, by which the juridic relationship of faithful-sacred minister arises, will have to be expedited by the host Church—which, in our assumption, is either non-existent or hardly able to attend to the OFWs.

Art. 18 [Selection of chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]
§1. The diocesan or eparchial bishops of the countries a quibus shall remind parish priests of their serious duty to provide for all the faithful a religious formation such that, if the case may be, they will be able to face the difficulties connected with their departure for emigration.

§2. The diocesan or eparchial bishops of the places a quibus shall moreover take it upon themselves to seek out diocesan/eparchial presbyters who are suited for pastoral care with emigrants, and they shall not neglect to enter into close relations with the Episcopal Conference or the corresponding hierarchical structure of the Eastern Catholic Church of the nation ad quam in order to help in pastoral work.

§3. Even in dioceses/eparchies or regions where it is not immediately necessary for seminarians to specialize in the field of migration, the problems of human mobility should be taken more and more into account in the teaching of theology, especially pastoral theology.

B. Institutes of Consecrated Life

Historically, the best capacitated clerics to accompany emigrants were precisely members of institutes of consecrated life, given the existence of their own organizational and spiritual support structure to sustain them in such arduous assignment. It is no wonder then that Erga migrantes positively appraised the role played by the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in their specific contribution towards the pastoral care of migrants, regulating them in Part II: Juridical Pastoral Guidelines as follows:
Art. 12 [Positive appraisal of the work done by religious.]

§1. All institutes, in which religious of various nations are often present, can make their contribution to assistance for migrants. Ecclesiastical authorities should therefore encourage in particular the work done by those who, under the seal of religious vows, have the apostolate to migrants as their own specific goal or who have acquired appreciable experience in that field.

§2. The help offered by women’s religious institutes to the apostolate among migrants should also be appreciated and valued. The diocesan or eparchial bishop shall therefore ensure that these institutes, with full respect for their own rules and bearing in mind their obligations and their charism, lack neither the spiritual assistance nor the material means necessary for them to carry out their mission.
Art. 13 [Missio canonica of religious chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]

§1. In general whenever a diocesan or eparchial bishop intends to entrust the care of migrants to a religious institute, with due respect for the customary canonical norms, he will draw up a written agreement with the superior of that institute. If more than one diocese or eparchy is involved, the agreement must be signed by every diocesan or eparchial bishop. The role of co-ordinating these initiatives belongs to the competent commission of the Episcopal Conference or the corresponding hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

§2. If the pastoral care of migrants is entrusted to an individual religious, it is always necessary first to obtain the consent of his superior and in this case too to draw up the relative agreement in writing; in other words, taking into consideration due distinctions, the procedure is the same as that laid down in Art. 5 for diocesan presbyters.

Again we have to point out that following this formula, the Philippine Hierarchy can only authorize members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life to go and minister to the OFWs wherever they are deployed. The specific missio canonica, by which the juridic relationship of OFW-sacred minister arises, will have to be expedited by the host Church—which, we should not forget, is either non-existent or hardly able to attend to the Filipino OFWs.

C. Role of the Episcopal Conference: The Commission on Migration & the Director for Migration

In order to foster and coordinate the work of chaplains/missionaries, Erga migrantes provided for the opportune organisms under a given Episcopal conference, in Part II, Chapter V as follows:
Art. 19

§1. In countries to which migrants go, or which they leave, in larger numbers, the Episcopal Conferences and the competent hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches shall set up a special national commission for migration. It will have its secretary, who in general will take on the office of national director for migration. It is very opportune that religious should be present on this commission as experts, especially those working for the spiritual assistance of migrants, as well as lay faithful qualified in this matter.

D. Lay Associations
As previously pointed out, the Philippines enjoys a particular advantage in the reality of a vibrant ecclesial involvement of the laity. This affirmation is easily verified by the simple observation of the proliferation of lay associations and movements, including so-called covenanted communities, in which the members commit themselves to varying degrees of dedication to works of zeal and apostolate.
This fact can be made to dovetail with the provision of Erga migrantes, Part II as follows:

Art. 3

§1. The faithful who decide to live with another people should strive to esteem the cultural patrimony of the nation that welcomes them, to contribute to its common good and to spread the faith especially by the example of Christian life.

§2. While maintaining the right of migrants to have their own associations, at the same time everything should be done to facilitate their participation in local associations.

§3. The lay faithful who are culturally better prepared and spiritually more available should furthermore be urged and trained to take on a specific service as pastoral workers in close collaboration with the chaplains/missionaries.

In effect, in what affects the OFWs, it would not be difficult to envision the collaboration of the Philippine Hierarchy with these lay associations—especially the covenanted communities—in order to orient their members who are OFWs to collaborate more effectively with the chaplains/missionaries for migrants, all in favor of the pastoral care of the OFWs in their particular places of deployment.

E. Personal Prelature

At this point, it is timely to make an important observation regarding all the institutions we have surveyed, relevant to the problem of setting up an effective organization of the pastoral care of OFWs. It is simply that all of them, insofar as they are unilateral initiatives by the Philippine Hierarchy, are nevertheless all non-hierarchical in nature. The reason is equally simple: because in none of them has the principle of personal jurisdiction been invoked, such that in all of them, the OFWs deployed in foreign lands are neither hierarchically connected with a territorial ecclesiastical circumscription (either because such a host Church doesn’t exist where they are, or the language and cultural barrier prevents their being integrated to such Church at the moment), nor with their Church of origin in the Philippines (simply because they are not in Philippine territory at the moment).

Now then, no matter how zealous the chaplains/missionaries for migrants may be, or how dedicated to the apostolate with the OFWs the lay members of the covenanted communities might be, it would not suffice for the full delivery of the Church’s spiritual wealth (the Word of God and the sacraments) necessary for the OFWs to fully actualize their universal vocation to holiness. For that to happen, the hierarchical relationship sacred minister-faithful must be in place. Another way of understanding this is to remember that for the Church to effectively exist, the interplay between the ministerial priesthood of the clerics (ultimately stemming from the sacra potestas invested on the sacred Pastors because of apostolic succession) and the royal priesthood of the laity must exist.

In other words, if the OFWs are indeed to enjoy maximally the means of salvation, in equal terms with the rest of the Catholic faithful in the Philippine Church, they must form part of an ecclesiastical circumscription, in much the same way as the other Filipino Catholics back home do. The only way they can do that, given the difficulty of their forming part of a territorial ecclesiastical circumscription where they are (either because such does not exist or cultural differences make such inclusion impractical), is for them to form part of a personal ecclesiastical circumscription set up specifically for them.

In this respect, special mention has to be made of the personal prelature, the paradigm of the personal (non-territorial) jurisdiction, as pointed out by the Instruction De pastorali migratorum cura and by numerous authors.

Even a cursory reading of the canons of Book II, Title IV: Personal Prelatures of the Code of Canon Law—what may be regarded as the Organic Law for Personal Prelatures—cannot but reveal the fittingness of this jurisdictional figure to the phenomenon of which we are presently concerned.

Can. 294. Personal prelatures may be established by the Apostolic See after consultation with the Episcopal Conferences concerned. They are composed of deacons and priests of the secular clergy. Their purpose is to promote an appropriate distribution of priests, or to carry out special pastoral or missionary enterprises in different regions or for different social groups.

In the case of the OFWs, the Holy See—upon consultation with the CBCP (which could even initiate the whole process) and the competent Episcopal Conferences where the OFWs are deployed—can erect a Personal Prelature for Filipino OFWs. It can be composed of Filipino clergy—initially from the different Philippine dioceses, especially those from which the OFWs concerned come from, and even from religious orders—either by incardination or by adscription.

Can. 295 §1 A personal prelature is governed by statutes laid down by the Apostolic See. It is presided over by a Prelate as its proper Ordinary. He has the right to establish a national or an international seminary, and to incardinate students and promote them to orders with the title of service of the prelature.

Perhaps the most important element of the Personal Prelature—as provider of the peculiar pastoral care to the OFWs—is having its proper Prelate, who with the sacra potestas given by Law, will be able to adequately provide the appropriate pastoral care needed by the OFWs. As such, the pastoral care that shall be given to the OFWs shall not be a matter of personal or grassroots initiative anymore—either by missionary clerics or zealous laypersons—but shall be the hierarchical exercise of the tria munera Chrisit.

Even if initially the Personal Prelature for OFWs would most probably have to rely on volunteer clergy from the different particular Churches from which most of the OFWs come, there is no reason why in time, with the maturity of the personal prelature, it cannot establish its own seminary, to form its proper clergy imbued with the priestly spirit fitted for the itinerant flock to which they have to minister.

Can.295, §2 The Prelate must provide both for the spiritual formation of those who are ordained with this title, and for their becoming support.

As Baura had pointed out in his incisive article, one must not forget that if the emigrants need pastoral care, the chaplains/missionaries also need such spiritual assistance. In fact, the experience has not been good as regards clerics, from different particular Churches, who had volunteered to work with OFWs. Bereft of adequate pastoral care—either from their original Church of origin or from their new host Church, the former because they are supposed to be on loan to the latter, and the latter because of cultural differences or simply because of lack of means—these migrant chaplains oftentimes also fall prey to the same dangers that the OFWs themselves are subjected to.

Thus, by having a proper Prelate, with responsibilities and rights clearly defined, the chaplains for migrants would be better provided for, spiritually and materially.

Can. 296 Lay people can dedicate themselves to the apostolic work of a personal prelature by way of agreements made with the prelature. The manner of this organic cooperation and the principal obligations and rights associated with it, are to be duly defined in the statutes.

Reading this canon, one cannot help but think of the pastoral potentials of those OFWs, members of covenanted communities, presently trying to do apostolate with their fellow OFWs. One can only imagine how much more they can do were they to be organically incorporated to a personal prelature specifically erected for them. Instead of just being a grassroots phenomenon, these zealous laymen and laywomen would in fact be sharing in the mandate and the corresponding means that the personal prelature would enjoy.

Can. 297 The statutes are likewise to define the relationships of the prelature with the local Ordinaries in whose particular Churches the prelature, with the prior consent of the diocesan Bishop, exercises or wishes to exercise its pastoral or missionary activity.

A noteworthy quality of this hierarchical circumscription is its capacity to be adapted to the pastoral needs of the OFWs, since the specific characteristics and the sphere of activity of a personal prelature (whether within the territory of an Episcopal conference or in a larger geographical extension) are fixed in the specific act of its erection and the its statutes given by the Holy See (c.295, §1).

For example, a distinction might be made between the kind of work the prelature for OFWs might do in those areas where a stable and mature territorial ecclesiastical circumscription already exists, capable of adequately providing the pastoral care for the OFWs; and in those areas where such territorial ecclesiastical circumscription either does not exist or is hardly capable of adequately taking care of the OFWs. In the former (e.g., U.S., Canada, Australia and most countries of western Europe), perhaps the role of the personal prelature for OFWs would be purely one of facilitating the assimilation of the OFWs into the local Churches. In the latter, however, the role of the personal prelature would really be to provide the full range of ordinary pastoral care for the OFWs.

The very nature of the personal prelature—as defined by the Code of Canon Law—permits a great range of flexibility in this regard.

Conclusion: Towards a Personal Prelature for Filipino OFWs

After all the foregoing discussion, my conclusion is that the best way to answer the challenge of adequately providing pastoral care to the 5 million OFWs all over the world is through the erection of a Personal Prelature for Filipino Migrant Workers.

I agree with Baura that such erection of a personal prelature by the Holy See can in fact arise as a logical development of existing structures and the re-orientation of other structures. In broad strokes, one could envision the following:

1. The Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (what Erga migrantes refers to as the National Director for Migration) can be appointed as the Prelate of the Personal Prelature.

2. The existing chaplains/missionaries for OFWs can form the presbyterium of this Personal Prelature. Note that there indeed are a number of such priests—both belonging to the secular clergy (from different Philippine dioceses) and of late even a society of apostolic life. The former can have a choice of being incardinated to the new prelature or just being adscripted to it, while the latter can simply work in it through the opportune agreements between the Prelate for OFWs and their religious Superiors.

Of course, for the long-term maintenance of the presbyterium, this Prelature will have to set up its own seminary, according to the tenor of c.295, §1.

3. The laypersons, who hitherto may have formed part of covenanted communities or lay associations dedicated to the apostolate with the OFWs, may be invited to form an organic part of the Prelature, according to the tenor of c.296.

4. The Statutes of the Prelature will have to be drawn up, according to c.297, taking into account all the peculiarities of the pastoral work that it will do with the OFWs.