Keynote Address to the States Dinner
Hilario G. Davide Jr., Retired Chief Justice and Chairman of KCFAPI
Philippines 9th National Convention
Manilla, Philippines April 28, 2012
by Hilario G. Davide Jr.
Happy Easter! The Lord Jesus has risen! Let us be glad and rejoice!
With Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, that ushered us to this 9th National Convention, we come together with the assurance of redemption and the promise of life everlasting. Early on Easter Sunday I received this text message from my good friend, Fr. Carmelo Diola of Cebu: “The Risen One brings forth fullness out of emptiness (John 21:1-14) for God’s enduring love (Pr 118:2-4, 22-27) shines forth in Jesus’ name (Acts 4:1-12).”
For, indeed, as the Gospel according to John reveals, Jesus assures us that He is the Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Good Shepherd; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 6:35, 8:12, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6).
By dying Jesus destroyed our death, and so the Apostle Paul proclaims the coming of what has been written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15).
By rising, Jesus restored our life. And so, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his “Urbi et Orbi” Easter message delivered at noon of 8 April joyously proclaims: Surrexit Christus, spes mea – Christ, my hope, has Risen.
Easter means a new life, a new beginning, a “new creation.” The apostle Paul declares: Whoever is in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor 5).
Easter must, as well, mean a new K of C, new Knights of Columbus.
Being ushered by the eternal proclamation of Easter with the words of the Holy Father, Surrexit Christus, spes mea, this 9th National Convention has become exceptionally outstanding because of its chosen theme: So That the World May Know New Hope. This was also the theme of the 129th Supreme Convention of our Order in Denver, Colorado, USA, last August 2011.
“New Hope” does not mean that there was an old hope. Hope never grows old. Hope is ageless. It is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, for it does not only mean “confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future” (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p.780); it is because God alone is the ultimate ground or source and object of Hope (Id.); truly, God is Hope. Christ is Hope. God the Father and God the Son Jesus Christ is (not are) the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, for in the book of Revelation, in three chapters, (1:8, 1:11, 21:6; 23:13), God makes it known that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. The One who is and who was and who is to come. And in the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus says: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28).
Why then does our theme say “new” hope? To me, the “new” does not refer to Hope. It simply means that our world, our generation, have not fully known or welcomed God in the fullness of the Trinity, as the source and object of Hope. Hundreds of millions of our vast humanity do not even believe in God and Jesus Christ, our Hope, or have even refused to hear of Him, or hearing Him have forgotten Him. It is the world of those groups that our theme has in mind. We Filipinos must congratulate ourselves because, as reported in the 19 April 2012 issue of the Philippine Star, according to the survey carried out by the NORC research groups at the University of Chicago, the Philippines leads the world in the number of people who believe in God. Ninety-four percent (94%) of the people in the Philippines said they have always believed in God; followed by Chile with 88% and the United States with 81%. Belief in God was lowest in the former East Germany (13%) and in the Czech Republic (20%). The survey also found that atheism is most widespread in Scandinavia and the former Soviet Union – with the exception of Poland – and that belief in God was generally declining worldwide, but not in Russia, Slovenia and Israel. These are interesting revelations.
Now, per data released by the National Statistics Office, our country’s population has reached 92,337,852 as of 2010. This 2010 count is higher by 15.83 million compared to the 2000 population of 76.51 million. Our population grew at the rate 0f 1.9% annually from 2000 (Philippine Star, 9 April issue). These data do not include the nearly eight million Filipinos abroad, more than two million of whom are in the United States of America, the home of our Order.
Easily, more or less 83% of our population are Christians; and of the Christians, I suppose more or less 90% are Roman Catholics. The CBCP can give us the current correct data. Out of this number of Filipinos, 288,434 are members of the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines as of 31 March 2012, broken down as follows: 144,394 in the Luzon Jurisdiction, 60,551 in the Visayas Jurisdiction, and 83,490 in the Mindanao Jurisdiction. Each of them represents the usual Filipino family of an average of from 4 to 6, including spouses. Counting their ascendancy in the family, we can say that in the Philippines more or less one million and a half are Knights of Columbus and/or committed to and supportive of the spiritual and moral ascendancy of these Knights. But with our extended families, the ascendancy has tremendously increased.
On the other hand, of the world population of 7,036,701,185 as of 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon of 25 April 2012, 2.28 billion are Christians, and of the Christians, 1.15 billion are Roman Catholics. Of the Roman Catholics, only 1.8 million are members of the Knights of Columbus worldwide. This number includes those in the Philippines. The world of the non-Christians is another part of the world which our Convention theme equally addresses.
Further, Christian doctrines, teachings and values are gradually losing hold in many parts of the globe due to, inter alia, religious intolerance, wars, terrorism, violence, and spiritual and moral bankruptcy. Right now, the killings in Syria would need another apostle Paul to travel to Damascus because in Syria Jesus now repeats to many what He said to Paul: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 22:7). Many other parts of the world are suffering from poverty, hunger, disease and calamities. These too are parts of the world and of humanity to which our Convention theme addresses.
Also, we cannot deny nor even simply refuse to believe that there are many Knights of our Order who are only such in name, or who are liabilities to the Order. The world of this unfortunate segment of the K of C is also part of that world referred to in our Convention theme.
I have shown to you the world that must know new hope.
Being the world’s largest Catholic lay organization, and being committed to the cardinal principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, whose acronym K of C I have been proclaiming since I joined it in 1976 as meaning Knights of Christ and not just Knights of Columbus, it logically follows that to the K of C and to each of its Members is imposed the grave herculean, and even fearsome, task of making our brothers and sisters in those parts of the world referred to as being referred to or addressed by our Convention theme as I have just mentioned and described, know, feel, experience and live the HOPE, which to them may still be “new.”
Thus, as we celebrate the 130th anniversary of the founding of our Order by Fr. Michael J. McGivney, the forthcoming 160th birthday anniversary of Fr. McGivney, the 107th anniversary of the establishment of the first K of C Council in the Philippines – Council 1000 – and prepare for the forthcoming 54th anniversary of the establishment of the KCFAPI, the main support of K of C Philippines, by Fr. George J. Willman, SJ, first Philippine K of C Deputy, and the “Fr. McGivney of the Philippines” according to the past Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant, let us solemnly renew our covenant with Jesus, our Hope, and remain true and faithful Knights of Christ even more than true and faithful Knights of Columbus, who hearken to His call “Follow Me” (Matt 4:19, 19:21; Mark 1:17, 10:21; Luke 18:18). Remember, as the apostle Paul solemnly declares to the Corinthians: “We are ambassadors for Christ as if God was appealing through us.” (2 Cor 3). We must, as Pope John Paul II, in his Crossing the Threshold of Hope, “cross the threshold of Hope.” We must, as the Holy Father says in his book Jesus of Nazareth, encounter Jesus face to face. In this herculean task, we Knights of Columbus in the Philippines have shown equally tremendous sincerity of purpose and nobility of vision. If you recall, for the 8th National Convention in Cebu City in April 2010, our theme was “Volunteerism: Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” As your keynote speaker then, I stressed the concept of “neighbor” in both the Old and New Testaments, and focused on Jesus’ command: “Love your neighbor as thyself,” pronounced as the second greatest commandment, the first being: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt 19, 22; Mark 12).
In your separate State Conventions in April 2011, the theme was “I Am My Brother’s Keeper.” In my message published in The Cross issue of May 2011, I stated that the heart of this theme is Jesus’ Proclamation at the Last Supper of His new covenant: “Love one another, as I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34-35). Love is the heart, soul and strength of the cardinal principles of our Order. Our times and seasons are deeply troubled by crises of every kind, nearly unparalleled in proportions and perhaps never imagined to ever simultaneously occur. Yet these crises provide us the singular opportunity to demonstrate our abiding concern for others – for our brothers.
Now, by our Convention theme, we impose upon ourselves the solemn and noble duty to go outside and beyond our “neighbors.” We are to go to the world I emphasized and particularized earlier, this time not just to show love to our neighbors and to volunteer to help them but to volunteer to help to let “the world know new hope.” We owe it to the Supreme Council of our Order through the Holy Spirit – led and inspired exemplary man – Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson – to declare and proclaim for the Columbian year 2011-2012 the theme “So the World May Know New Hope.” Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical letter SPE SALVI – Saved in Hope – describes to us the true shape of Christian hope and enumerates these “settings” for learning and practicing hope, namely: prayer; action and suffering; and judgment.
There are very important and significant events in or for the Philippines that should inspire us to fulfill the spirit and articulate the full scope of our theme. First, the Holy Father has approved the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod, and scheduled the canonization on 21 October 2012, just a few days after our celebration of Columbus Day. Blessed Pedro Calungsod of Cebu, a young catechist, suffered martyrdom at age 17 in Guam, for our faith. He will be the second Filipino saint. For the canonization event, the Executive Council on the Canonization, headed by His Eminence Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal and the National Commission co-chaired by Their Excellencies Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu and Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, have adopted the theme: “Life That Is Offered. Faith That Is Proclaimed.” The then 17-year old Pedro Calungsod died for the sake of letting the world know of new hope. He can be our example.
Second, the recent beatification of Pope John Paul II, who would soon be canonized. He was very close to the Knights of Columbus and to our Supreme Knight.
Third, the campaign for the beatification of our Order’s founder, Fr. Michael J. McGivney, is moving fast in the Philippines with the presentation of the Fr. McGivney Pilgrim Statues for our three Jurisdictions during our Eucharistic celebration this morning and the inauguration and blessing of the Fr. McGivney Multimedia Studio at CBCP and of the Fr. McGivney Oratory and monument at our own KCFAPI Headquarters. May we give flesh and blood to the prayer for Fr. McGivney’s canonization.
Fourth, the renewed activities for the cause of Fr. George J. Willmann, SJ, the first K of C Philippine Deputy, which are now led by the recently organized National Executive Committee for the Cause of Fr. George J. Willmann and actively spearheaded by our own Msgr. Pedro Quitorio III. May we make him our model as a Knight leading other men in the war of good against evil, in the war of the Gospel of Life against the culture of death. It may interest you to know that our Order has so far produced and given to the world seven (7) saints (St. Luis Batiz Sainz, St. Mateo Correa Magallanes, St. Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman, St. Jose Maria Robles Hurtado, St. Pedro de Jesus Maldonado Lucero, St. Miguel de la Mora and St. Rafael Guizar Valencia) and four (4) Blesseds (Bl. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Bl. Jose Rangel Montaño, Bl. Andres Sola Molist and Bl. Leonardo Perez Larios).
Fifth, to end on 30 May is the campaign “A Million Rosaries for the World, Filipinos at Prayer, Peace to All Nations.” It is a campaign for One Million Rosaries A Day sponsored by the Family Rosary Crusade which commenced last 10 October 2011. I would suppose that most, if not all of us, signed the pledge for this campaign.
Sixth, your KCFAPI now only to be 54 years old on 1 August 2012, reckoned from its registration with the SEC as a non-stock and not-for-profit mutual benefit association, is vigorously implementing and pursuing its efforts and programs to provide protection benefits to the Members of the K of C in the Philippines. Its fidelity to its commitment to provide such benefits is unparalleled as evidenced by the continuing increase of its total protection portfolio to brother Knights and their families. It is renowned for its dedicated service to both the Church and the country, our beloved Philippines. Our President Boy Hernandez has just reported to you its outstanding accomplishments. Let me just stress one significant fact: the KCFAPI has given all-out financial support for the holding of State Conventions by the three Jurisdictions and their National Conventions, such as this 9th National Convention. Through its initiative, and together with the three Jurisdictions, the National Convention Manual of the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines was promulgated, to take effect on the 1st day of June 2011. It specifically provides to be the first objective of a national convention the following: to demonstrate publicly the unity, solidarity, and harmony of all Brother Knight in the three State Jurisdictions in the Philippines in pursuing and in advancing the highest ideals of Columbianism and the cardinal principles of the Order, particularly on pro-life issues, the protection and promotion of the sanctity of marriage and of family life, and on matters concerning membership fidelity to the Catholic Church and her teachings, youth development, ecology, amelioration of the poor in all aspects, the promotion of good governance and public accountabilities, the fight against graft and corruption, and many other concerns.
The 9th National Convention is the first to be held under and pursuant to the Manual.
With all the support KCFAPI is providing, I cannot expect any of the three State Jurisdictions to truthfully assert that a national convention can succeed without KCFAPI’s support.
Seventh, our Supreme Knight, Carl A. Anderson, has made his third visit to the Philippines. He was with us on our 8th National Convention. He was with us in March 2005 for the centennial of the entry into our country of the K of C with the establishment of the First Council, Council 1000 of the Manila Cathedral. Giving his time, talent, understanding and wisdom to a faraway Jurisdiction is a sacrifice of self-emptying all for the sake of the Order’s vision and mission. His presence validates the Divine-inspired choice of the theme: “So That the World May Know New Hope.” We must never forget that he had written the book: Civilization of Love which teaches and guides “what every Catholic can do to transform the world.” In short, the goal of our theme is transformation of the world. And only Love can do that.The Apostle Paul reminds us of Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love (1 Cor 13).
Let me now end by asserting without fear of contradiction or any dissenting opinion that this 9th National Convention would be an empty gesture, an exercise in futility unless as Knights of Columbus – or better yet, as Knights of Christ or as ambassadors of Christ – we unconditionally embrace with all our hearts, the full meaning of our theme by becoming living, visible, fearless instruments to help make known to the world the New Hope. Let us be inspired by the Apostle Paul in his address to the Romans: “And we even boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only this, but we even boast of our affliction, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces proven character, and proven character hope, and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
Also, you must begin immediately by, among other things, making yourselves as exemplary models of virtues and values in your community, strengthening your Councils by increasing membership, reviving suspended councils and establishing new ones, and pursuing with unparalleled courage and vigor the cardinal principles of Columbianism and the various K of C programs; by taking full advantage of the KCFAPI protection benefits; and promoting and protecting the sanctity of life, of marriage and of the family. The campaign against the RH bill must be given utmost priority.
God bless us all!
The Honorable Hilario G. Davide is a retired Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court and former Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations. He is currently chairman of KCFAPI, the insurance company of the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines.