Leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines have signed documents with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), or Philippine Independent Church, “for more ecumenical cooperation in the midst of diversity.”
In a joint statement signed Aug. 3, leaders of the two churches said together they “ask and pray for mutual forgiveness for all wounds inflicted in the past.”
“We will strive to heal and purify the memories of our members,” read the statement issued on the occasion of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country.
The IFI formally separated from Rome and declared itself a Nationalist Church in 1902 “in the midst of a turbulent period of the Filipino struggle for independence from the colonial rule of Spain and the United States” , indicates the press release.
The Philippines was under the control of Spain for 300 years until 1898 when the country declared independence. The United States then ruled the country until 1945.
“The formation of the IFI was not against the Catholic Church, but rather against the continued domination of the Spanish bishops and priests in the dioceses and parishes of the colony,” reads the joint declaration signed by the leaders of the Philippine Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the IFI Bishops.
“Within the framework of a nationalist revolution, the creation of the IFI also meant a” religious revolution “which appealed to the patriotic feelings of the population aspiring to the birth of a nation,” he added. .
From the American colonial period to the present day, Christianity in the Philippines has evolved with a variety of traditions, church leaders said.
The IFI entered into a âpartnership commitmentâ with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and became one of the member churches of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines and the World Council of Churches.
He also established concordats of full communion with the Episcopal Churches and with several Churches of the Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht and with the Church of Sweden.
The IFI has also accepted women into the ordained ministry of the Church.
The Catholic Church in the country has also grown with the appointment of many Filipino bishops and the diminishing role of foreign missionaries. Over the years, the Church has opened its doors to ecumenical communion with other Christian churches.
The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991 also endorsed the “true value of ecumenism … in the realm of faith, justice, peace and development … for lay faithful, clergy and religious people”.
This week’s joint statement also called for “mutual recognition of baptisms” between the IFI and the Catholic Church. The Trinitarian baptismal formula of the IFI has already been recognized by the Catholic Church in its list of baptisms validly administered by other Christian churches.
âWe recognize this gift of faith in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as expressed in the Symbol of the Apostles and the Symbol of Nicaea,â the statement read.
âWe share the same baptism, using the Trinitarian formula. This sacramental initiation incorporates us all into the one Body of Christ,â he added.
“In addition, both churches show a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoking her maternal intercession for all her children to come together and to defend the dignity of women,” reads the statement, which was signed by two Episcopal bishops as witnesses.
The IFI entered into full communion with the Episcopal Church in 1961. In 1980, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines also affirmed in a signed agreement its mutual recognition of baptism with the Catholic Church.
Through the joint declaration, the two Churches urged the faithful through the local communities in parishes, schools and seminaries “to forge these ecumenical bonds of brotherhood and common action”.
Church leaders promised that through “spiritual ecumenism” they would encourage joint activities in prayer services, such as the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Stations of the Cross. during Lent and Holy Week processions and scripture reading on Easter Sunday and other important feast days.
“Members of the two churches can also join hands in social work ministries such as defending the human rights and dignity of the poor, migrants, women and children and indigenous peoples, environmental protection and peacebuilding, âhe added.
The IFI has 47 dioceses, including the Eastern and Western Diocese of the United States and Canada, with an estimated number of eight million members. It is headed by a supreme bishop similar to a presiding bishop in other denominations.
The Church is the second largest Christian denomination in the Philippines after the Roman Catholic Church, representing about 6.7 percent of the country’s total population.