Compassion is the better choice
SIR – A few times each day a helicopter passes overhead and lands on the helipad of a five star hotel near Manila bay, a service to guests who would prefer to avoid our famous traffic. Its flight path goes over the national sports stadium in whose covered alcoves the homeless sleep and store their handful of belongings… so close, and yet so far.
The distance between rich and poor here is greater than anywhere I have seen in the world. Unbridled capitalism and endemic corruption work synergistically to ensure an ever growing underclass and untouchable and increasingly isolated elite. Added to this are the aspirations of the middle classes which can counter compassion and build walls against the poor. It all chips away at our humanity and increases separation and isolation. A big event like the Papal visit, for example, sees the homeless shunted away by the government, dehumanized as an embarrassing problem.
We must seek out a new way, of compassion and dignity. Everyone has a story but not all have a voice.
I read a post some time ago and the chap who told the story was just sitting down for lunch at a simple outdoor carinderia (café) when a homeless man came shuffling along with a few bags in tow. He invited him to join him for lunch and they got talking.
The homeless man had not always been so. He had worked all his life; he and his wife had a good home and life together until she became ill. Hospital bills quickly mounted and exceeded their savings until he had to sell his house and property to continue treatment. (Whilst the Philippines is a developing country, the medical fees are set at first world prices.) Eventually she died and now he was left grieving (although without regret) and had nothing left.
He was making his way back to a province where he had relatives who might take him in and so his host bought him a bus ticket to that town and they parted company. Sometimes a few minutes to listen and a few pesos can lift someone up.
How easy it was to help; how much easier not to bother to engage though, like in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Compassion is the better choice; the better choice for rich and poor alike.
Manila, The Philippines
Children’s welfare should come first
SIR – You report that the Bishop of Prato, Giovanni Nerbini, has denounced to the civil authorities several priest members of a small religious order in his diocese – already supressed canonically by the Vatican – regarding allegations of the sexual and psychological abuse of minors and the use of authority within the order (Vatican news analysis, February 14). Maybe the bishop has provided an answer to Stephen Spear’s quandary (Letter, February 7) about which has more practical importance: the welfare of the abused child or the absolution of the abuser.
We wish of course that the abuse had never taken place but, insofar as it may have done, we commend Bishop Nerbini and his well-publicised and clear action. It is an example to all ecclesiastical authorities.
SIR – That Rwanda’s newest cathedral will be built on the site of a notorious prison is not new (News analysis, February 14). After all, Westminster Cathedral was built on a site of a prison.
It is good news that the civil regime has consented to the building of this new cathedral and, please God, it will help heal the wounds of that once devastated state.
West Harrow, Middlesex
SIR – Dr James Le Fanu does a good job (February 21) in analysing various causes of growing mental illness in our youngsters, but he omits the most damaging: divorce.
Divorce always harms children, however well disguised. The teenager carries this question in his or her subconscious: “If they lied when they promised each other they would stay together, how do I know they aren’t lying when they tell me they love me?”
A school with a soul
SIR – How unexpected to find myself falling into the category of “wealthy”, “pushy” and “results-driven” parents threatening the soul of St Philip’s School (February 21). My three sons are sent there precisely because of the school’s unique character and I can vouch for the survival of its eccentricities in the face of recent staff departures.
I hope my friend Ysenda Maxtone Graham will return to a school Mass and see much charm intact. She will find the joy of St Philip Neri flourishing under the impressive new director of music and inspiring young master of liturgical ceremonies assisted, when not impeded, by my 12 year old son, who rejoices in the dubious title of head chapel prefect. Ysenda could also take the opportunity to button-hole our headmaster – if she can reach him without impaling herself on my sharp elbows.
The Two Popes is honest on Benedict
SIR – Bishop Robert Barron takes the makers of The Two Popes to task (January 10) for presenting “a fairly nuanced, textured and sympathetic portrait of Pope Francis and a complete caricature of Pope Benedict.”
Armed with this review, I recently paid good money to see The Two Popes. I must have seen a different film to the good bishop. While accepting that the film is a work of almost complete fiction, or maybe even “faction”, I found that the film shows both protagonists in a fairly sympathetic light.
In the film Benedict is portrayed as old and tired and I believe this was true. However, unlike his good friend John Paul II, he believes that the church needs strong and active leadership and he no longer feels he has the energy to supply such leadership. This is honest and good and as part of his honest self-appraisal, he decides to resign.
Three years ago, the Lutheran Church celebrated 500 years and one of their topics was “Benedict – a Bridge to Unity”. Their respect for him is immense, as his input into formulating the common beliefs of the two churches in the late 90s was decisive.
This fact has not been disseminated actively to Catholics and I believe it should be made more widely known.
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