In the days before the arrival of the saint's heart, Filipino Catholics are "excited and anxious". "He is a model for all Catholics, laity or consecrated. He gives confidence to those who suffer, to those who are sick, lost, confused or in search of God's blessing ". In the Philippines devotion to Padre Pio grows steadily, also thanks to social media".
Santo Tomas (AsiaNews) - The forthcoming arrival in the Philippines of the relic of the heart of Padre Pio is "a sign of hope, which pushes us towards higher values in our relationship with God" says Fr. Joselin Gonda (photo 1), rector of the national sanctuary of Saint Padre Pio in Santo Tomas (Batangas), less than a month from the beginning of the historic pilgrimage (6-26 October) of the remains of the saint. They will be exhibited in several cities in the nation including Manila, Cebu and Davao.
In the press conference for the presentation of the event, Fr. Gonda said that the visit will be "a time of grace for the Filipinos, who are sinking into despair given the uncertainty of these uncertain times in our nation’s history".
Interviewed by AsiaNews, the priest identifies "the main causes of the suffering of his people" in political tensions, economic difficulties and social problems. Added to these are " human rights violations; the killings of drug dealers and drug addicts that characterize the government's drug war; the kind of language that President Rodrigo Duterte uses in addressing the Catholic Church and in matters concerning God ".
"Drug addiction, suffering, pain, however, represent the trials to be overcome for those who remain faithful to God in spite of difficulties - says the priest - For this reason, the visit of the saint's remains is a time of hope and life'".
Filipino Catholics are "excited and anxious". "Their joy and their expectations are many - continues Fr. Gonda - In these moments, people come to the sanctuary and pray for the consolation and intercession of Padre Pio. The visit will have a huge impact on the faith and awareness of the faithful and the nation".
In the Asian country with the largest number of Catholics (about 83% of the population), devotion to Padre Pio is widespread. In this regard, the rector of the national shrine declares: "It was deep before the canonization, in 2002, but since then it has grown and has become even more rooted. During the nine years I spent here at the sanctuary, I discovered that Padre Pio is truly the saint of our times. He is a saint who offers hope, a model for all Catholics, laity or consecrated. He gives confidence to those who suffer, to those who are sick, lost, confused or in search of God's blessing. Many ask for his intercession and the numerous healings feed the devotion to the saint through social media ".
The growing affection that binds Filipinos to the saint of Pietrelcina also manifests itself in the crowd that every day pours into the national shrine from every province of the country. "When I started working here, the faithful who attended the two Sunday Masses were only about 300. At the moment, on holidays we celebrate eight functions (photo2-3-4), which gather 40 thousand to 60 thousand people, depending on the weather conditions. All over the country, many parishes, shrines and places of prayer are now dedicated to Padre Pio", says Fr. Gonda.
Finally, the priest tells us that the pilgrimage of the relic of the heart of Padre Pio will also include the participation and involvement of Filipinos abroad, especially those who emigrated to Italy. "We would have liked to meet the many Filipinos of Italy in San Giovanni Rotondo, where a delegation will take custody of the relic. However, in agreement with the Order of Capuchins, we preferred to avoid too much confusion. We will wait for them in at home, where many will return for the occasion ". (PF)