Philippines church leaders urge an end to crucifixion rituals

By Ecumenical News International
April 7, 2010

In the Philippines, where real-life crucifixion re-enactments have become both a holy ritual and a tourist attraction, Roman Catholic and Protestant church leaders have urged people to live out their faith beyond the rituals and penitence of Lent and Holy Week - writes Maurice Malanes.

"If Jesus were watching those who self-flagellate or who get themselves crucified, he would be asking himself, 'Why would they need to do all these things when I have already sacrificed myself, and died for the world and all humankind?'" the Rev Rex Reyes, Secretary-General of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, told Ecumenical News International.

Reyes was speaking on the day before Good Friday, when 27 penitents, two of them women, from the provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan, north of Manila, were nailed to crosses. Police said around 50,000 people, including some foreign tourists, watched the event.

"This is part of my yearly panata (act of devotion)," 49-year-old carpenter Ruben Enaje told reporters on the eve of his crucifixion on Good Friday in the village of Cutud in San Fernando, a town in Pampanga province.

The crucified penitents ignored Catholic bishops' advice for people not to unnecessarily hurt themselves. "There are many ways for us to repent our sins," Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the diocese of Marbel told the Catholic-run Radio Veritas before Holy Week.

The six-week-long Christian Lenten period of fasting and sacrifice ended on Sunday, Easter Day, when Jesus' resurrection was celebrated.

In his Easter message, Reyes exhorted the faithful to meditate on the resurrection of Jesus. Citing the letter to the Galatians (5.1) in the New Testament of the Bible, Reyes said the resurrection gives humankind the hope to, "never again submit to the yoke of slavery".

Therefore, he added, "We do not need to re-enact the crucifixion."

Rather, added Reyes, "It thus becomes a Christian vocation to respect the dignity of all people, and to defend that dignity at all times."

Part of this vocation, he explained, demands, "wise stewardship of the earth's resources, just compensation for those who work, corruption-free public service, the speedy dispensation of justice, and release for those unjustly wronged," so that, "our children will learn of war no more".

In a post-Lenten message, Catholic Bishop Martin Jumoad, from the island province of Basilan, urged believers to "incarnate their faith" in their workplaces and homes not only in Lent but everyday.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]


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