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National Congress of the Clergy (NCC II) highlights Philippines' celebration of Year for Priests

Close to five thousand priests from all over the Philippines and some neighboring countries will gather at the World Trade Center on January 25-29, 2010, for the Second National Congress of the Clergy (NCC II), a highlight of the celebration of the Catholic Church in the Philippines of the Year for Priests. The Congress is being organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through its Commission on the Clergy previously chaired by Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, with Bishop Florentino Lavarias of the Diocese of Iba as present chairperson.

Pope Benedict XVI declared on June 19, 2009, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, a beloved feast among Catholics, June 2009-June 2010 as the Year for Priests as the Church marks the 150th Dies Natalis of St. John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide. The Pope has asked that this year be a time for deepening the commitment of all priests “to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world.”

It is the second time that a national congress of the clergy will be held; the first was in July 2004 which drew some 4,000 participants. The first congress was held amid controversies regarding sensitive issues that surrounded members of the clergy, particularly in the United States and Europe at that time, and featured speakers and activities that aimed to help priests understand better their role and mission. The theme of the Congress follows the theme of the Year for Priests: “Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of priests.”

This time, organizers said, NCC II will move towards moral, pastoral and spiritual concerns and the Congress will be conducted “retreat-style” with Franciscan Capuchin, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, as the main speaker and facilitator.

Msgr. Gerardo Santos of the NCC II Committee on Program, said the basic objective of the congress is to provide the priests a deep and religious experience that will hopefully lead to a spiritual conversion and greater commitment.

The dynamics of the retreat-congress involves prayer and liturgy, conferences, group reflection and journal writing and the encounter with host families. Priests attending the congress will be housed in parishes, seminaries, inns and in homes of families in Pasig, Makati, San Juan, Pasay, Cubao, Mandaluyong and Manila. About 1,500 priests will be hosted by an equal number of families.

There will be five conferences to be delivered by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.  On the fourth day Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of the Diocese of Imus will provide pastoral challenges for the Church in the Philippines presented by Fr. Cantalamessa’s talks. On this day also, laypeople will share with their priests their experiences on their struggle for holiness in the secular world. The lay sharers include Maria Voce of the Focolare Movement and former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.

NCC II have its closing activities at the Cuneta Astrodome where the priests will be joined by thousands of laypeople for the celebration of the Eucharist. Cardinal Rosales will be main celebrant at this mass with all the bishops of the country and the priests co-celebrating. ##