PEACETALK: We live in the cusp of Philippine history

(Acceptance speech of Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, OMI, Archbishop of Cotabato, Bukas-Palad awardee 2014, Ateneo de Manila University, September 2014)

Most profoundly I thank Ateneo de Manila University, its Board of Trustees, its distinguished President, Fr. Jose RamonVillarin, S.J., and the Awards Committee for this meaningful award. I am deeply humbled.

For forming me to be a missionary to the poor, a formation that is at the basis of this award, I thank my religious Congregation, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. To proclaim the Lord’s Gospel to the poor, to be “specialists in difficult missions” as one of the Popes described the Oblates – that is the Oblate Charism handed down to every Oblate, by our Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. This is the reason that we have chosen to work among the people of Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

Most of all I thank the Lord, the giver of all good gifts. Everything that I am, everything that people say I have merited because of a modicum of skill and talent — everything is simply and absolutely God’s gratuitous gift. “All is grace,” said St. Therese.

And if coincidences are really signs of God’s Providence, then truly providential it must be to be named an Oblate Cardinal and receive various honors in this year of the Lord, 2014, the 75th year of Oblate missionary presence in the Philippines, and the 50th anniversary of my priestly ordination.

From a wider perspective, this award reminds us all of our common mission to proclaim God’s Reign of salvation, of justice and peace, truth and love particularly for the poor and marginalized. To proclaim God’s Reign, with its impelling call for social transformation, has always been my own mission-focus as a priest and as a bishop.

That perspective is, indeed, deeply related to the Christian identity, your identity and mine. To be Christian is nothing more and nothing less than to be a disciple-in-mission. This is the emphasis given to the Christian identity by our Pope Francis.

And to be a missionary disciple is to tell the story of Jesus, the God-made- poor for our sake, Jesus who walked and lived among the poor, gentile or Jew, in order that he might ultimately be their Peace. The dialogue of Jesus with the non-Jew, with the double negativity of being a Samaritan and a woman, has to be a paradigm for building harmony and peace in our country today.

We live in the cusp of Philippine history – when a just and lasting peace in southern Mindanao is in the final stages of realization. The mutual respect and understanding, the persistence, patience and wisdom of peace negotiators in the past thirty years are God’s gifts to the peace process.

When finally peace shall be realized, whatever contribution I might have given to it and to the integral development of indigenous peoples and poor farmers – all those are God’s gifts, so that we may be in solidarity with one another. Day by day, solidarity among us, peoples of different cultures and beliefs, must be built. Insightfully St. John Paul II has observed: “The fruit of Solidarity is Peace.”

Once again, my dear friends, thank you very much. (MindaNews)