The Philippines’ Catholic bishops have vowed a renewed mission as they ended their National Synodal Consultation last week.

With humility, the bishops admitted that they "do not have all the answers to the many questions of our time, while we recognize the goodness and giftedness of our people and those who do not share our faith.”

“We open doors for us all to go out and set forth once again for mission – to seek out those who are far, different, excluded; to encounter, listen and dialogue with our brothers and sisters of different denominations and faith; to explore possibilities for positive engagement in the areas of ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, politics and social media,” the bishops said.

The high-ranking bishops then urged for unity among its workers and members, particularly those in peripheries, as they embarked on a “new mission.”

“We hear Pope Francis constantly calling for a Church whose members strive to live in unity and harmony (communion), participate (participation) in the life of the Church, and do not tire of seeking out the least, the lost and the last (mission). This is a call to a Synodal Church – a Church that journeys together,” read the statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“We responded to his call by starting in our dioceses, prelatures and apostolic vicariates Synodal experiences of listening to one another, from different sectors down to the barangay level, especially those at the peripheries and those excluded from our church communities,” it added.

After consultations of the bishops, representative lay leaders, consecrated persons and clergy from July 4 to 7 in Tagaytay City, the CBCP said they now “commit ourselves to Synodality – looking, listening and loving as our way of proceeding, that we may grow into a humble, welcoming and inclusive Church in the Philippines.”

“It brought us joy to see the persevering faith of our people; the dedication of our ministers, the increasing dialogue of action within and with others. We saw lights,” it said.

“We heard strong voices calling us, our clergy, consecrated persons and lay collaborators to heed the call to conversion, to go out of our comfort zones, to be welcoming, to be transparent and accountable, to be more compassionate,” the CBCP added.

CBCP President and Bishop of Kalookan Diocese Pablo Virgilio David said they “moved to ‘open doors’, especially the door of personal, parish, and institutional conversion.”

“This means, for us, opening wide the doors of encounter, listening and dialogue; the door of renewal of ourselves and the clergy; the door to greater witnessing of simplicity and humility; the doors of stewardship, good governance and care for creation; doors towards strengthening the faith formation and empowerment of the laity, and building up of our communities; the door of renewing our structures and ministries, – leaving behind those that do not help and embracing those that make us a community; doors that lead to building bridges, closing the gaps and promoting equality,” Bishop David said.

Despite being known as a bastion of Catholicism in Asia, the Catholic Church in the Philippines is facing the grim reality of declining church membership, particularly among the youth.

The Philippine Jesuits earlier identified the “three great hungers of the Filipino youth."

These are the hunger for food, hunger for dignity, and hunger for God.

Citing a 2000 study by a CBCP commission, Filipino theologian Father Catalino Arevalo said that only six percent of all Filipino youth received “significant religious instruction.”

“The youth are not leaving the Church, they are simply not being reached!” said Father Arevalo.

In the March 2017 Social Weather Stations survey alone, it was revealed that the Catholic Church has the lowest rate of weekly church attendance, at 41 percent only, while Iglesia ni Cristo got 90 percent, Muslims at 81 percent, and other Christians at 71 percent.

“According to the same CBCP study cited by Fr. Catalino Arevalo in 2000, at the rate the Church was losing members, the Philippines would no longer be a Catholic country in 40 years,” the Philippine Jesuits said in a report.

In the May 2022 elections, the Catholic Church was also criticized for losing its moral and spiritual leadership after the victory of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.