The Pope and 500 years of faith in the Philippines: The dances, the Cross, the Holy Niño
Marking the 500th anniversary, Pope Francis wanted to celebrate a mass in St. Peter's together with the Filipino community and Card. Tagle. A dance introduced the mass, amidst waving of white handkerchiefs. “Thank you” for “the joy you bring in your faith”. With their humble and joyful service, Filipino men and women are "smugglers of the faith", capable of spreading it everywhere, like a "good disease". Card. Tagle deeply moved.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The dance-procession that opened today's mass at the altar of confession encapsulates the meaning of the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Philippines. Pope Francis wanted to be present, alongside Card. Luis Antonio G. Tagle, former Archbishop of Manila and today prefect of Propaganda Fide, and Card. Angelo De Donatis, vicar for the diocese of Rome. The congregation, spread out to respect the anti-pandemic health measures, many Filipino men and women who live as migrants in the diocese.
During the symbolic procession, a young man and a woman carried the cross of Magellan, with which in 1521 the first Easter Mass was celebrated in Limasawa (Medidionale Leyte, Eastern Visaya), the other the statue of the Holy Niño, who attracts millions of devotees throughout the archipelago. Behind them, six girls in white and gold dresses dance advancing and waving a white handkerchief. The faithful from the pews participate by singing and waving their handkerchiefs with them.
In his homily, Francis first commented on the phrase of the Gospel "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son" (John 3:16).
He first emphasized that "God loved so much". In Jesus, God “he went in search of us when we were lost. In Jesus, he came to raise us up when we fell. In Jesus, he wept with us and healed our wounds. In Jesus, he blessed our life forever. The Gospel tells us that whoever believes in him will not perish (ibid.). In Jesus, God spoke the definitive word about our life: you are not lost, you are loved. Loved forever."
The second word underlined is “God gave his Son”: “Precisely because he loves us so much, God gives himself; he offers us his life. Those who love always come out of themselves. Love always offers itself, gives itself, expends itself. That is the power of love: it shatters the shell of our selfishness, breaks out of our carefully constructed security zones, tears down walls and overcomes fears, so as to give freely of itself."
Then recalling the 500 years since the first Christian proclamation in the Philippines, he said: Dear brothers and sisters, five hundred years have passed since the Christian message first arrived in the Philippines. You received the joy of the Gospel: the good news that God so loved us that he gave his Son for us. And this joy is evident in your people. We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers.” Then moving from his scripted homily he added a special "thank you" to the Filipino men and women for "the joy you bring in your faith", so much so that he defined them as "smugglers of the faith", to spread it everywhere, like a "good disease".
“I want to thank you - he continued - for the joy you bring to the whole world and to our Christian communities. I recall the many beautiful experiences in families here in Rome – but also throughout the world – where your discreet and hardworking presence became a testimony of faith. In the footsteps of Mary and Joseph, for God loves to bring the joy of faith through humble, hidden, courageous and persevering service.”
“On this very important anniversary for God’s holy people in the Philippines, I also want to urge you to persevere in the work of evangelization – which is not the same as proselytism. The Christian proclamation that you have received needs constantly to be brought to others. The Gospel message of God’s closeness cries out to be expressed in love for our brothers and sisters. God desires that no one perish. For this reason, he asks the Church to care for those who are hurting and living on the fringes of life. God so loves us that he gives himself to us, and the Church has this same mission. She is sent, not to judge but to welcome; not to make demands, but to sow seeds; not to condemn, but to bring Christ who is our salvation.”
“With your joy - he concluded - you will be able to ensure that the Church also says: “He loved the world so much!”. A Church that loves the world without judging it and that she gives herself for the world is beautiful and attractive. So be it, in the Philippines and in every part of the earth”.
Before the conclusion, Card. Tagle, representing all Filipino migrants, thanked the pontiff for participating in the celebration: “We bring you here the filial love of the Filipinos of the 7641 islands of our country. There are more than ten million Filipino migrants living in nearly one hundred countries around the world. They are united with us this morning.”
After briefly tracing the history of evangelization in his country, which has led the Filipino Church to be the third Church in the world by number of faithful, Card. Tagle added: “By God’s mysterious design, the gift of faith we have received is now being shared by the millions of Christian Filipino migrants in different parts of the world. We have left our families, not to abandon them, but to care for them and their future. For love of them, we endure the sorrow of separation. When lonely moments come, Filipino migrants find strength in Jesus who journeys with us, the Jesus who became a Child (Santo Nino) and known as the Nazarene (Jesus Nazareno), bore the Cross for us." At one point, speaking of the loneliness experienced in faith by so many migrants, Card. Tagle was moved almost to tears.
“Let us pray - he concluded - that through our Filipino migrants, the name of Jesus, the beauty of the Church and the justice, mercy and joy of God, may reach the ends of the earth. Here in Rome, when we miss our grandparents, we know we have a Lolo Kiko. Many thanks, Holy Father. Salamat. Mabuhai ".
Finally, during the Marian antiphon, two children in festive costumes approached the image of Mary with Pope and placed two baskets of flowers at her feet.