“On the bells are inscribed the words ‘Holy to the Lord'” (Zech 14:20)
Pastoral letter on the returning bells of Balangiga
Beloved People of God:
Grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ!
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. God has shown great favor to our Local Church and, by extension, to our country.
We express deep gratitude to the Almighty who has done “great things” (Lk 1:49) for us and to so many persons and instrumentalities through whom the Lord has manifested his love. With the psalmist we exclaim: “Praise the Lord with the sound of the cymbals! Praise him with the loud clashing of the cymbals” (Ps 150:5)!
During a time of war the bells were taken from the Parish of St Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr, Balangiga, Eastern Samar. 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.
We must not deny the tragic events of war that occasioned the misuse of the bells by the warring parties. We must express sincere sorrow and repentance for the sins committed leading to the loss of lives and the destruction of homes and properties. But we must also forgive. We must seek reconciliation not because it is politically correct but because it is the demand of the Gospel.
Rightly used, the bells call us to pray and worship our God and Father through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Prayer and worship express but also deepen our faith, hope and charity. We ring the bells before and during our highest act of prayer and worship—the Holy Eucharist. 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.
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. With the sure guidance and intercession of the Virgin Mary our Mother, St Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr, and all the saints, let us resolve, inspired by the Balangiga Bells, to heed the Scriptures’ counsel: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”(Ps 95:7).
Sincerely in the Lord,
+Most Rev. Crispin B. Varquez, D.D.
Bishop of Borongan