Manila (AsiaNews) John Paul II "was close to the hearts of all Filipinos who remember as a priceless treasure his urging "not to fear to open wide the door to Christ'", this according to Mgr Bernardino Cortez, auxiliary bishop of Manila and vicar general of the Sacred heart of Jesus Shrine, who spoke on the occasion of the upcoming first anniversary of the Pope's death on April 2.
"There will be a youth meeting in Manila to remember this great Pope," said Bishop Cortez. "It will start with a mass celebrated by newly-appointed Card Gaudencio Rosales, archbishop of Manila."
"Both meeting and mass will take place in the open gym in Malate's Catholic school. There was no other place that could welcome 5,000 teenagers from around the country," he explained. "It will be the main event this year in the Philippines, but [throughout the country] there will be other memorial prayers, intentions and thanksgivings for John Paul II".
The decision to commemorate the first anniversary of the pontiff's death with young people was taken because "the largest Eucharistic celebration ever was here during World Youth Day in 1995. On that occasion, the Pope made us feel how close he was to the hearts of all Filipinos, especially when he urged us 'not to fear to open wide the door to Christ'."
"He spurred us to evangelise amongst the young because in Asia our youth are those who travel the most," the prelate said. "Throughout the world, you find workers from the Philippines and our task as priests and bishops is to give them a strong Catholic base to hold up against pressures even in countries that are hostile to Catholics. This is possible only when the door is wide open to the Lord."
Bishop Bernardino concluded saying: "We are proud John Paul II taught us this. We are now trying to apply the teaching in every one of our actions. Today, wherever there is a Catholic church, you'll find a Filipino inside, praying".