Manila (AsiaNews) - Masses, prayer vigils, processions and musical events were held across the Philippines to celebrate Saint Pedro Calungsod, a young catechist martyred in 1672 in the Marianna Islands at the age of 17. Pope Benedict XVI canonised him yesterday, World Mission Day.
In Manila, tens of thousands of Catholics gathered at the Santo Niño de Tondo Parish Church to witness the canonisation rites in the Vatican, broadcast on giant screens. In San Juan City, about 4,000 faithful gathered at the San Juan Arena to watch the ceremony.
The most important activities were held in Ginatilan, Calugsod's birthplace, some 135 kilometres south of Cebu City, Visayan Islands, where the new saint was acclaimed in what became a popular celebration, linked via TV and radio with Rome.
In a statement addressed to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, Filipino President Benigno Aquino had declared 21 October a national day of celebration to honour the saint.
Fr Giovanni Re, regional head for Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), said that Saint Pedro Calungsod has something that unites all Filipinos.
Not only is he the second Filipino honoured this way-the first was Saint Lorenzo Ruiz canonised by John Paul II in 1987-, but "His youth has made him popular among young people. Even when he was only a Blessed, many considered him the patron saint of students and new generations. His life dedicated to Jesus is an invitation to all Filipinos to follow the teachings of the Church and place their destiny in the hands of God."
According to the clergyman, Saint Pedro's canonisation reinforces the Philippines' Catholic identity. "For centuries, people honoured foreign saints and martyrs imported by the missionaries. Now, there are two figures who look at this people, showing that it is possible to live at this time a faith that arrived in this land almost 500 years ago."
According to Filipino authorities, about 3,000 Filipinos travelled to Italy to take part in the ceremony. Hundreds of thousands of migrants celebrated the canonisation of the young martyr in the United States, Asia and especially the Middle East.
Regional director of Migrante Middle East (ME) John Leonard Monterona said that Pedro Calungsod's canonisation is an inspiration for millions of migrants living their faith in situations of exploitation and persecution.
Born in 1654 in Cebu, Visayan islands (central Philippines), Saint Pedro Calungsod was fascinated during his childhood by the Christian message brought by Jesuit missionaries. He later began training as a catechist during his teenage years.
In 1668, along with other Catechists, he went with Fr Diego Luis de San Vitores to the Mariana Islands to evangelise the Chamorro people.
Despite the danger of persecution and violence, Pedro showed deep faith and charity as he continued to catechise among the many converts, bearing witness to Christ through a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel.
He was martyred in 1672 during a visit to one of the villages that had become hostile to the missionaries. Pedro accepted his martyrdom in order not leave Fr Diego who had been mortally wounded by a spear. (SC)