Most Reverend Eminences and Excellencies:
Almost every town in the Philippines has at least one church built during the Spanish colonial period, all of which are inherent parts of the architectural heritage of Filipinos and stand as testaments to the excellence and creativity of Filipino artisans and craftsmen of yesteryears who labored to create these works of art.
These properties of the Filipino people are under the custodianship of the Roman Catholic Church and their representatives in the Republic of the Philippines.
It must have come to your knowledge that several parish priests have taken it upon themselves to modernize and renovate heritage churches under their care without proper consultation with conservationists or representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage. In their desire to "leave their mark" on the churches, parish priests have caused irreversible damage to our old churches during their short stints in their parishes.
Sadly, there have been instances where parish priests sold off priceless antiques and other church property to unscrupulous antique dealers and collectors to fund these renovations, with the treasures of the Church ending up in homes and other private collections.
In many occasions, the renovations are costly and unnecessary, and at times ostentatious. Priests and parish pastoral councils have undertaken and continue to undertake large-scale fundraising campaigns for these renovations when such funds could be put to better use, especially in a Third-world country such as the Philippines.
The funds could instead be directed toward the three-fold pastoral program of action of the CBCP, to build character, capability and community. Instead of spending on renovations, the various parishes could use the funds “to empower those who are needy to construct a better future” by supporting “social action programs, training programs and institutions, research centers, schools, charitable agencies and organizations, religious orders and congregations, lay organizations and movements, Basic Ecclesial Communities,” that would “help people grow in capacities, such as the capacity to govern themselves, the capacity to develop their abilities, the capacity to find meaningful and fruitful employment and work, the capacity to care for our environment, the capacity to make leadership accountable.”
We, the undersigned petitioners, thus urge the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to protect the cultural heritage of the Philippine Catholic Church from further damage by ordering the immediate stop to all ongoing and proposed renovations to heritage churches that have not been approved by the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church or reviewed by representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage.
We also urge the CBCP to declare all Catholic churches in the Philippines fifty years or older as part of the cultural heritage of the Church and create a comprehensive list of all these churches for the information of the Filipino people and to aid the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in monitoring the said churches.
It should also empower the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church by giving it the sole authority to approve any restoration, construction or further improvements of heritage churches, with the aid of representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage, and the power to order the halt any restoration, construction or further improvement that it deems damaging to a heritage church.
Finally, we urge the CBCP to adopt a policy of frugality with the renovation of churches. It would be best to channel the funds for unnecessary renovations to the pastoral program of action of the CBCP.
To sign the petition, visit http://www.petitiononline.com/cbcp/