Pope celebrates 500 years of Christianization of the Philippines

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Picture: religion.orf.at
On the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

It was attended by just over 100 faithful, mostly Filipinos living in Rome. In his homily, Francis thanked the Christians of the Southeast Asian country, which has the third largest Catholic population in the world, for their contribution to the universal Church. He specifically mentioned Filipino women who live and work in Rome; they are true “flag bearers of the faith.”

“The more you love, the more you become capable of giving,” the pope said, referring to the Gospel of “God, who loved the world so much that he gave his Son Jesus Christ.” “He who loves always goes out of himself,” Francis admonished. The strength of love, he said, is “precisely this: it shatters the shell of selfishness, breaks through dams of over-calculated security, tears down walls and overcomes fears to make itself a gift.”

“On this very important anniversary for God’s holy people in the Philippines, I also want to urge you to persevere in the work of evangelization – which is not the same as proselytism, which is another thing. The Christian proclamation that you have received needs constantly to be brought to others. The Gospel message of God’s closeness cries out to be expressed in love for our brothers and sisters,” the pope said.

At the beginning of the Mass, the so-called “Magellan Cross” and the figure of “Nino de Cebu” were carried forward in procession. The wooden cross, barely one meter tall, was erected by Fernando Magellan on the island of Cebu when he reached the Philippines on March 16, 1521. It is otherwise located in a church in Cebu City.

The “Nino de Cebu” is a dark wooden figure of baby Jesus miraculously found in 1565. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come to the “Basilica del Santo Nino” in Cebu City every year, where the nativity figure is exhibited.

Entrance as a dance choreography
During the procession, in which women and men entered the basilica in dancing steps, a Filipino choir sang the popular church and pilgrimage song “Batobalani sa Gugma.” Readings and Gospel were delivered in English, Tagalog and Italian.

The Mass was attended by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the former archbishop of Manila.

Before the final blessing, Cardinal Tagle addressed a greeting to Pope Francis, and the pope was given two gifts by the people.

“We bring you the filial love of Filipinos in the 7,641 islands of our country. There are more than ten million Filipino migrants living in almost one hundred countries in the world. They are united with us this morning,” Tagle said.

The cardinal from the Philippines teared up as he spoke to the pope and the people.

“From 1521 to 2021, we see gift upon gift. We thank God for the bearers of the gift these 500 years: the pioneering missionaries, the religious congregations, the clergy, the grandmothers and grandfathers, the mothers and fathers, the teachers, the catechists, the parishes, the schools, the hospitals, the orphanages, the farmers, the laborers, the artists, and the poor whose wealth is Jesus,” he said.

Of the 108 million inhabitants of the Philippines, more than 80 percent are Catholic, making the country the third largest number of Catholics in the world. In commemoration of the first Christian service in the Philippines on March 31, 1521, the anniversary Mass with a larger number of faithful has been postponed for one year, to Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022.

— sources: orf.at and cbcbnews.net/picture:religion.orf.at

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