Cebu (AsiaNews/Ucan) - At least half a million people took part in celebrations for the day of "national thanksgiving", dedicated to the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod. The festivities in honor of the second saint in the history of the Philippines, took place yesterday in Cebu, in the center of the country. The event was attended by President Benigno Aquino, the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Cebu Mons. Jose Palma, the Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
A procession on foot, consisting of 80 carriages and floats with images of Catholic saints, from parishes throughout the province, opened the celebrations in the early hours of the day. At noon there was a second procession, this time a fluvial one, which transported the image of Calungsod aboard a galleon; the image was then placed in a new site dedicated to the saint, which stands on a 27-hectare beachside property.
The Archbishop of Cebu Jose Palma told reporters that the fluvial procession "depicted Calungsod's journey to Guam" (an island of the Marianas archipelago in the Pacific), where he was martyred for his work as a catechist, in the late 1600s. The prelate added that the galleon that brought him to Guam "was God's instrument for bringing him and offering his life for the faith." Mons. Palma finally pointed out that the history of the Philippine saint "reminds us all that life is a journey" and therefore urged the faithful to emulate Calungsod.
President Benigno Aquino, who arrived in the city early in the morning, gave a short speech at the end of the Mass, and his speech was followed by a cultural event and an impressive fireworks display.
Security was tight around the city, and marked by special weapons, tactical units and anti-terrorism squads, to avoid any kind of problem. Previously, the police had appealed to the faithful, urging them not to carry sharp objects or jewellery, warning them that security would be very strict at the Mass venue.
The leaders of the Philippine church present at the day of thanksgiving defined Calungsod a model for young people, as well as for Philippine immigrants working abroad.
Born in 1654 in Cebu in the Visayas region (central northern Philippines), St. Pedro Calungsod was fascinated since childhood by the Christian message brought by Jesuit missionaries and as a teenager began to prepare to become a catechist. In 1668, together with other young catechists, he accompanied Fr. Diego Ruiz de San Vitores to the Marianas Islands to evangelize the Chamorro people. Despite the risk of persecution and violence, Pedro showed deep faith and charity and continued to catechize the many converts, giving witness to Christ through a life of purity and devotion to the Gospel. His martyrdom took place in 1672 during a visit to one of the villages which had become hostile to the presence of the missionaries. Pedro accepted martyrdom in order not to leave Diego alone, who was mortally wounded by a spear.