MANILA, Feb. 14, 2013—Filipino delegates who are looking forward to seeing Pope Benedict XVI in July for the upcoming World Youth Day (WYD) are saddened by the Holy Father’s retirement at the end of the month, but they are looking forward to having a glimpse of the new Pontiff by the time of the global youth gathering.
Marlon Antolin of Kadang Dominiko in San Juan said his first encounter with the outgoing Pope was during the WYD 2005 in Cologne, Germany. The rare opportunity to see the Holy Father in the flesh happened again for Antolin during the WYD 2011 in Madrid, Spain.
Although Antolin, together with his fellow Kadang Dominiko friends are expecting to see Pope Benedict XVI again in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the next WYD, he said he understood the Holy Father’s decision to vacate the top post in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.
“I always look up to him with respect and love especially when he was able to step out of the shadows of his predecessor John Paul II with his writings and directions. I feel sorry for his resignation but do understand his choice,” he said.
But Antolin hopes that the new Pope will be chosen before the WYD, hopefully soon before Easter.
“I just pray that we can all together cry out ‘Habemus Papam’ by Easter. Who knows, the next pope may be from Asia,” he said.
Like Antolin, Dani Villanueva, the youth coordinator of the Diocese of Antipolo met Pope Benedict XVI during the WYD 2009 in Sydney, Australia and in Madrid, Spain later in 2011.
“I am happy for the opportunity to see him (during the past WYDs),” Villanueva said.
Villanueva also said the decision of the Holy Father to resign from his post is “the fruit of his prayers and discernment guided by the Holy Spirit.”
“I know everything is according to the mysterious plan of God. Mysterious as it may seem, I know that the Lord will give us the gift of understanding. (For now), I’m praying for his good physical, mental and emotional health,” he added.
For his part, Lourd Ronald Bocboc, leader of the WYD delegates from the diocese of Butuan, said that although he was amazed with the Holy Father’s decision, he would “welcome with the same enthusiasm whoever will replace him.”
“It’s hard to believe but if that’s for the better, I can only contribute my prayer, compassion and work in communion with the Church. I know that the Holy Spirit is continually working with us,” said Bocboc, who was a lay volunteer during the WYD in Spain.
Meanwhile, Fr. Hendrix Alar, who heads the WYD pilgrims from the Diocese of Dumaguete, described the Pope’s retirement as a father’s parting from his children. But despite the sadness that the Pope’s decision caused the global Catholic community, Alar said it was made for the best interest of the Church.
“I feel his love for the Church and his sincerity, he wants the ministerial role of the Church not to be dragged by his failing health condition. He wants the Church to be effective in doing the new way of evangelization with a new Pope, which makes me more hopeful for the WYD in Brazil,” the priest said.
San Juan’s Kadang Dominiko and the WYD pilgrims from the dioceses of Antipolo, Butuan and Dumaguete are among the various groups who joined the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth-Philippines (EYC-Philippines) Delegation to the WYD 2013 in Brazil.
As of press time, 15 groups or 400 individual pilgrims have signified interest to be part of the ECY-Philippines delegation to the WYD. Application to be part of the delegation is ongoing until the end of February.
Being the official country delegation, ECY-Philippines is considered as the biggest Filipino contingent based on pilgrim numbers during the past WYDs.
The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro is the host of the upcoming WYD slated on July 23 to 28. However, WYD pilgrims are also given a chance to participate in the Missionary Week from July 17 to 20 in other different dioceses throughout Brazil. (KB/YouthPinoy)