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‘Running priest’ now has cyber parish
« on: September 21, 2008, 05:53:23 AM »
MANILA, Philippines -- With just a click, you can listen to a Sunday homily, read reflections on the Bible, and chat with a priest.

Activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes is launching on Sunday parokyasaweb.org, a virtual parish where he will post his reflections on daily Bible readings, his homily at Sunday Masses and inspirational messages.

More importantly, he's open to chats with his virtual parishioners after the 6 p.m. Angelus, and even beyond that.

"People are asking me, `Father can we confess to you over chat?' Of course, you can. `Can you give us absolution?' Of course I can,'' Reyes, 53, said in an interview Thursday night.

The launch will take place at the Internet shop "Kompyuteran: Iskolar ng Bayan'' in the University of the Philippines' Shopping Center in Diliman, Quezon City at 10 a.m. on Sunday. The Philippine On-line Chronicles is hosting the website.

The idea, Reyes said, is to spread spirituality and reach out to the millions of Filipinos working in other parts of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.

"Now I will have a forum to share my spirituality, even my personal struggles looking for and searching for God and for meaning for my own life,'' he said in the interview. "Regular spirituality is a function of priests whose lives are dedicated to reminding people of the centrality of prayer and spirituality.''

Reyes has been working abroad since early 2006 after the Catholic Church advised him to go on sabbatical leave in the aftermath of his criticisms of the administration's policies. He now works for the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

In his cyber parish, the priest would write a reflection on the daily Bible readings, and post it, and at 6 p.m. he will say the Angelus in a pre-taped podcast.

"So I will be in communion with the whole Catholic Church reflecting on the Gospel pieces,'' he said.

After the 10-minute Angelus, anybody could log on, and chat with him on any subject until he signs off at 6:30 p.m.

"So anyone who wants to chat with me from anywhere in the world, they can do so,'' he said. "But at 6:30 p.m., since I still have to have my own life, I will say goodbye.''

But anybody could still chat with him any time of the day if Reyes is available online, he said.

On Sundays, the priest said he would upload a video clip of his homily at a 10 a.m. Mass he regularly says for a group of Filipinos in an undisclosed place in Hong Kong.

"I cannot upload the entire Mass. It's too tedious and people will find it unnecessary because it's not live,'' he said.

Reyes spent a year from February 2006 working as an English teacher in a university in southern China, where proselytizing is prohibited. After he moved to Hong Kong in March 2007, where he taught the anthropology of religion in a university, he was allowed to say Mass.

But after he was detained and charged by the police in connection with the November 29, 2007 siege at the Manila Peninsula, but later cleared of the charges, he was banned by the Hong Kong bishop from saying Mass again.

This time, the boundaries are limitless.

"The parokyasaweb will really deepen my own appreciation of my own priesthood because I'm not already allowed to say Mass in Hong Kong and I'm not exactly encouraged to say Mass and have a parish in the Philippines,'' Reyes said.

"So what do I do? Forget the Eucharist? No I don't forget the Eucharist but I do celebrate the Eucharist quietly in the privacy of my room but the priesthood is not for celebrating Mass alone.''

Since 2006, people have been badgering him in which parish in Manila he was saying Mass, the priest said.

"Now I'll tell them, `I'm saying Mass on the web','' he said.(inquirer.net)

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