Catholic bishops from the Philippines pray at the National Synodal Consultation in Tagaytay City July 4-7. Philippine bishops pledged to prioritize the poor following the consultation with laypeople in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on synodality. (CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines)
Catholic bishops from the Philippines pray at the National Synodal Consultation in Tagaytay City July 4-7. Philippine bishops pledged to prioritize the poor following the consultation with laypeople in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on synodality. (CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines)
MANILA, Philippines — Catholic bishops in the Philippines have vowed to accelerate evangelization by being with the poor and reaching out to all sections of society, but lay Catholics remain skeptical in the absence of a concrete plan of action.

"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," Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said in a statement July 11.

The reflection followed the National Synodal Consultation with laypeople July 4-7 in Tagaytay, south of Manila, ucanews.com reported.

The synodal consultation is in preparation for Pope Francis' Synod of Bishops on synodality at the Vatican in October 2023.

The prelates said the meeting made them look for, listen to and call to love not only those within but outside the Catholic Church.

"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," the statement said.

Although there were success stories, the prelates also saw challenges such as the church's relationship with low-income people.

"It caused us sadness seeing we are yet far from our dream of a church of the poor, and hearing the yearnings and groans of those distant from the church. We saw gaps and closed doors in our work of evangelization," the bishops said.

Some Catholics, however, felt that the bishops' statement seemingly lacked concrete details on how church leaders could be with poor people, especially those victimized by graft and corruption.

Several parishioners downplayed the statement, saying there was little new to ponder except the prelates' efforts to meet with several lay organizations, which they said did not represent the poorest of the poor.

"Yes, it makes any Catholic happy to know that our bishops have realized that they are yet far from their dream of being a church of the poor. But the bigger question is what are they going to do about it?" Manila parishioner Gerry Balbuena told ucanews.com.

Balbuena said reading the statement sounded like the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines wanted to change the world without offering a concrete step to help those who are poor.

"Obviously, they cannot do everything that they had written. No Catholic can. What we need to hear are concrete and reasonable plans, especially with the kind of government leaders that we have now," Balbuena added.