Bishop calls for reconciliation amid looming return of Balangiga bells

Bishop calls for reconciliation amid looming return of Balangiga bells

The parish church of Balangiga in Eastern Samar. ESTE NEWS

By Roy Lagarde

November 30, 2018

Manila, Philippines

The looming return of the historic bells of Balangiga points to an even greater need for healing and reconciliation, a Catholic bishop said.

Noting the “tragic” events that led to the “misuse” of the bells 117 years ago, Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan said that peace still is, and still must be, dominant in human affairs.

“But we must also forgive,” Varquez said in a pastoral letter released today.

“We must seek reconciliation not because it is politically correct but because it is the demand of the Gospel,” he said.

In a formal ceremony in Wyoming on Nov. 14, the US started the process of returning the bells to the Philippines.

It is not clear yet when exactly the bells will be returned to Balangiga but the prelate is hoping for an ‘early Christmas gift’.

“After years of waiting and uncertainty, this season of Advent, the season of waiting, is yielding us an early Christmas gift—the return of the Bells of Balangiga,” said Varquez.

The prelate said that while the bells were taken by the American soldiers in 1901, during a time of war, “they are being brought back during the season of hope and peace”.

“This is only right because the bells are instruments of prayer and worship, sources of true hope and peace,” Varquez said.

“We ring the bells to signal community acts and to alarm the same community of impending emergencies. In a word, the bells bridge us to God and to one another. The bells are an integral part and parcel of our life in Christ in the community,” he added.

The bishop also expressed his gratitude to those who contributed to the impending return of the historic church artifacts.

“Let us therefore rejoice over the return of the Balangiga Bells. But we must also constantly return to the Lord and to one another by our continuing renewal and reconciliation,” he said.