MANILA, January 3, 2011 ( – In his New Year message to the people of the Philippines, CBCP president and Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar said that the agenda of depopulationists who promote artificial contraception as a way of reducing poverty is unsuccessful and goes against “the very conscience of many Christian Filipinos.”

“We usually begin the New Year with well wishes and a salvo of noble resolves. But, before our illusions consume us, let us first be awakened by this disturbing reality: What awaits the majority of Filipinos in the year ahead, much as we hope for the better, perhaps are still the same dehumanizing conditions of poverty, injustice, and unpeace,” Bishop Odchimar said in his message posted Friday on the CBCP news site.

The bishop said that landless farmers, jobless Filipinos, homeless urban poor, and dislocated tribal groups are symptoms of these dehumanizing conditions and that measures to fight corruption are the foremost means to alleviate poverty.

“I would like to agree that corruption is the radical cause of the misery of Filipinos. Therefore, it is but only proper to reject what is base and dishonorable! Let us then intensify and sustain this righteous effort of eradicating graft and corruption,” he said.

Bishop Odchimar said, however, that other measures to fight poverty have been proposed that “apparently disagree with the very conscience of many Christian Filipinos,” noting that along with those who believe that poverty is a consequence of population increase, “there are international campaigns afoot to reduce birth-rates, sometimes using methods that often fail to respect even the right to life.”

Bishop Odchimar cited Pope Benedict’s address on the occasion of the World Day of Peace to declare that poverty can be reduced without resorting to depopulation.

“The extermination of millions of unborn children in the name of the fight against poverty actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings,” the Holy Father said. “And yet it remains the case that in 1981, around 40% of the world’s population was below the threshold of absolute poverty, while today that percentage has been reduced by as much as half, and whole peoples have escaped from poverty despite experiencing substantial demographic growth.”

The bishop assured his people that “God is doing something new—perhaps something better than what we see around,” and that social transformation can happen.

“Peace and prosperity is within our reach. And the certainty of its realization lies in the fact that we are not alone in this task. God is with us!” he said.

Bishop Odchimar closes by inviting the faithful to “discern which work is God’s and eventually collaborate with Him.”

The full text of Bishop Odchimar’s New Year message is available here.