An unprecedented crowd in the history of the Filipino Church. During the three weeks of pilgrimage, the relic crossed the country, stopping at Santo Tomas and in the cities of Manila, Cebu, Davao and Lipa. Card. Quevedo: "Christians are not simply called to admire great saints like Padre Pio, but rather to imitate their virtues of humility and charity".
Manila (AsiaNews / CBCP) - During the historic pilgrimage to the Philippines of the incorrupt relic of the heart of Padre Pio (6-26 October), five million Catholic devotees rushed to venerate the remains of the saint, according to Fr. Jojo Gonda, rector of the National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Santo Tomas, Batangas.
The Philippines was the fourth country to receive the relic, after the United States, Paraguay and Argentina. In the Asian country with the largest number of Catholics (about 83% of the population) the pilgrimage was longer and gathered an unprecedented crowd in the history of the local Church.
Italian Fr. Carlo Laborde, Superior of the Franciscan Capuchin Community of San Giovanni Rotondo, said that being in the Philippines was an experience of “extraordinary faith”. “The heart of Padre Pio has visited various countries in the world attracting numerous crowd… but (the visit) in the Philippines has been unprecedented,” he said. “Our heart has been moved to see huge crowd everywhere,” said Laborde.
Last October 26, the relic left the national shrine bound for Italy at the end of a solemn mass (photo), presided over by Card. Orlando Beltran Quevedo (photo), Archbishop of Cotabato. During the homily, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato said people are called to “Christian discipleship” at a time when the country is in deep crisis because of the spate of killings and widespread corruption. In his homily at the National Shrine of St Padre Pio in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, he said these “dark signs of our times” includes a “damaged culture” because of faith that doesn’t lead to concrete action. “This is one of the greatest errors of Christian life in the Philippines. We say that we are Christians but we don’t practice what believe in,” Queveo said. “These are the reasons why there are so many problems in our country… criminality, corruption and so forth,” he said.
The cardinal said Christians are not called simply to admire great saints like Padre Pio, bur rather to imitate their virtues of humility and charity. He said the devotion to the Capuchin friar must be expressed not just by words but also by deeds. “The call to holiness then is the call of our times,” said Quevedo. “But we can’t be holy by simply desiring it. We have to collaborate with God’s grace and strive daily to be holy and charitable.” He added that to be holy, people also need to pray. “Prayer is the key to God’s heart as Padre Pio reminds us,” he said. “We cannot be holy, we cannot be united to the suffering heart of Jesus unless we pray.”
(Photo credit: CbcpNews).