Herdenking moord op Bisschop Ramento

Op 3 oktober was het 10 jaar geleden dat Bisschop Alberto Ramento vermoord werd. In de National Cathedral van de Iglesia Filippina Idependiente te Manila werd een herdenking gehouden waar de aartsbisschop de volgende toespraak hield.

Dear sisters and brothers,
Every time I think about my brother Bishop Alberto Ramento, I am reminded of the last encounter I had with him. Early May 2005 we met, some months  after the murder of his priest William Tadena. He told me: the next will be me! I’m nervous, but what can I do? I can’t leave those people who are struggling for justice and for a better life!
Ramento is one of the martyrs of our time, whose legacy continue to speak to us with power.
Bishop Ramento didn’t want to quit the dangerous place alongside the workers of the Hacienda Luisita neither other poor people who were fighting for their rights. They are carrying their cross and bishop Ramento was carrying it with them. On the occasion of the commemoration of the murder of Bishop Ramento and at the background of the witness of his life, let me offer you some thoughts about the meaning of the cross in our Christian life.
‘If you will carry your cross with joy,  then it will carry you’. It is a quote of Thomas a Kempis. It could be easily understood as an advice to reconcile yourself to the suffering that has become part of your life. It could lead people to resigning to marginalisation and injustice, even to oppression. Indeed, in the history of the church we can find more than one period in which people have spiritualised the cross. It was explained in terms of denying yourself, meaning neglecting the own desires. The reality of the cross – that’s the reality of murder – was completely forgotten. That the cross is an instrument of torture in a social conflict was completely forgotten. It was narrowed to personal suffering. That suffering was seen as a deprivation one had to undergo in order to gain eternal life. Accept what seems to be unchangeable, carry it patiently!
Did Jesus mean that we simply have to accept our situation, also when it is a consequence of injustice? Didn’t Jesus call to fight? Yes, we have to make a choice: we have to choose the side of the poor and the oppressed. Jesus didn’t take his cross as a fate, but it was a decision of his free will to join the poor and the oppressed. And, after him, many thousands of Christians made the same choice and had to pay for it with their lives. Not solitude or suffering, living under guilt, suffering from limitations etc. are signs of the cross, only our solidarity with Jesus’ commitment for his fellow human beings.
The obedience of Jesus that led him to his death on the cross, was not a kind of subservience to a sentence of a cruel god, no it’s the obedience to the dignity of humans as they are created in the image of God. Humans are created to love, to build on solidarity, to live in communion.
The cross is a stumbling block for those who expect some sensational action or exalted thoughts of a God who lives at a distance from humans. But for them who learned to know the vulnerability of humans, and in the first place their own vulnerability, is the consequence of love. Jesus obedience to his Father is identical with his obedience to humans. It is a obedience to the calling to restore human’s dignity.
We, Christians and church people, can’t have any other ambition than to cultivate this same calling. It is challenging us to listen carefully to our society, to our cultures, and to be open to the invitation to solidarity and communion that is to hear in all kinds of ways. In accepting this invitation you will lose some convenient safety in your life, in order to win the power and the wisdom of love.
That’s what the cross is all about. That’s the way the reality of the cross has transformed the world in the most definitive way and is still able to transform ourselves into people who know to live in solidarity.  That’s the way in which it has restored human dignity. Surrendering yourself to this ideal may open for you the way to a radical other life in which the liberation the cross brought to humankind may become tangible. It may open the way to the restoration of your own dignity. In his respect, the cross becomes the expression of one’s belonging to Jesus and to the Kingdom of God.
I wanted to mention these thoughts on this occasion because I thank the Lord for the witness of bishop Ramento.  And as I will quoting his own words as conclusion of this address, I want to honor him and his church because of your courage and deep faith. An now, I let bishop Ramento speak for himself: “The challenge is to transform the society into a new heaven and new earth. We, Aglipayans the congregation of new men and women, we in the IFI, the only tangible result of the Revolution of 1896, are in the position to lead towards transformation. Are we willing to make steps forward and, be counted, remembering this in doing so would mean carrying our cross? ‘Take up your cross an follow me.’ Take up your cross, not His cross, because the cross you carry is your service and the weight of the cross depends on the service you offer. To carry our cross means denying ourselves of the luxury of life we now enjoy. It means fighting for justice even when we ourselves would be treated unjustly. It means taking the risk of being accused as communist because we side with the oppressed; because we recognize Jesus in the least of his brethren…” (Sermon at the end of his term as Obispo Maximo, may 8, 1999)
Alberto Ramento remained confident to this mission until the end. We praise the Lord for his witness and pray that he will help us now to be open to the Holy Spirit who wants to provoke in our hearts a similar devotion.
Thank you for your attention.

Joris Vercammen
Aartsbisschop van Utrecht

Amersfoort, Bisschoppelijk Bureau, 4 oktober 2016