Catholic, IFI churches move towards reconciliation

Catholic, IFI churches move towards reconciliation

Rhee Timbang, the supreme bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, gives a copy of the IFI’s liturgical book and directory to CBCP Secretary General Msgr. Bernardo Pantin during the liturgical launching of the two documents at the IFI National Cathedral in Manila on August 3. SCREENSHOT/IFI

By CBCP News

August 3, 2021

Manila, Philippines

The Philippine Catholic Church and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente released a joint statement Tuesday, vowing to continue the healing process of fractured relationships between the two churches.

In the historic document titled “Celebrating the Gift of Faith, Learning from the Past and Journeying Together”, the churches pledged to pursue the dialogue in the spirit of repentance and forgiveness.

The IFI is a Christian denomination that broke away from the Catholic Church in 1902 due to alleged mistreatment of Filipinos by Spanish rulers.

The statement recalls the beginnings of the Aglipayan movement during the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule from 1896 to 1898.

It stressed that Aglipayans were not against the Catholic Church, but rather against the continued domination of Spanish bishops and priests in the country.

The document also emphasized that the movement was a continuation of the earlier nationalist struggle of the Filipino clergy for recognition.

In the statement, both IFI and Catholic leaders “ask and pray for mutual forgiveness for any injuries inflicted in the past” and “strive for the healing and purification of memories among our members”.

They also commended “ecumenical cooperation amidst diversity” and encouraged “spiritual ecumenism” through joint prayer activities.

The IFI noted that it also “strives to reach out for healing and reconciliation with other separated churches founded in the Aglipayan tradition.”

A companion statement that was also signed on the same day is the statement of “mutual recognition of baptisms” between the IFI and the Catholic Church.

The Trinitarian baptismal formula of the IFI is actually recognized already by the Catholic Church in its list of validly administered baptisms by other Christian churches.

The latest updated list was issued by Bishop Jose Rojas, chairman of the CBCP Commission on Doctrine of the Faith, in March this year.

What is new in the agreement is the expression of mutual recognition by both churches.

The document also includes the signatures of two Episcopalian bishops as witnesses, since the IFI entered into full communion with the Episcopal Church in 1961.

In 1980, the Philippine Episcopal Church had already affirmed in a signed agreement its mutual recognition of baptism with the Catholic Church.

The document was formally launched during an ecumenical service held at the IFI National Cathedral on Taft Avenue in Manila, and coinciding with the 119th proclamation anniversary of the IFI.

Among those in attendance were IFI leaders led by its Supreme Bishop Rhee Timbang and some representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines including Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez of Kalookan ang Msgr. Bernardo Pantin, CBCP Secretary General.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, CBCP President; Archbishop Angelito Lampon of Cotabato, chairman of the CBCP Commission on Ecumenical Affairs; and Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, chairman of the CBCP Commission on Mutual Relations joined the event online.

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