QUEZON City, April 1, 2014—Weeks before his much-awaited canonization, relics of the late pontiff and “saint-to-be” John Paul II are currently on display at the Radio Veritas Chapel in West Avenue, marking the first day of the months-long tour of his relics.
Relics curator Rey Isabelo said, they at Radyo Veritas are “humbled and proud” to be the first stop of the historic visit of the Blessed Pope John Paul II relics as part of the “Totus Tuus Tour” in the Philippines.
Among the first-class relics displayed are hair strands and blood stains of the Pope. The rest, which are second-class relics, are his skullcap; a large piece of his cassock; a rosary; a purificator used during the beatification of San Lorenzo Ruíz; a Missal; a papal medal; a piece of a chasuble; and a piece of the bed sheet on which the Pope died.
“These sacred relics are the closest we could get to Pope John Paul, since many of us here could never afford a plane ticket to Rome,” said Gene Suarez, a retired grade-school teacher from Iloilo, who is a frequent visitor to the Veritas Chapel.
Suarez could not contain her emotions upon viewing up-close the personal effects of whom she called her “beloved Pope”.
“I learned about this event only yesterday and I was almost literally flying from my house in Valenzuela just to get here before it gets too crowded,” she explained.
A widowed mother of four, the 67 year-old Suarez shared that she asked the Pope’s intercession that she may be given better health.
“When he was still alive, I was only able to see him on TV. His relics here make me feel as if the Pope is just here with us. I could not be any happier,” she added.
Totus Tuus Tour events chairman Dave Ceasar Dela Cruz said the tour aims to deepen Filipinos’ devotion to the late pontiff.
He recalled that Filipinos have a special place in Pope John Paul II’s heart and this love had been reciprocated many times, especially during the pontiff’s second and last visit to the country where millions came to see him at the Quirino Grandstand for the 1995 World Youth Day.
This papal crowd, which Guinness acknowledges as the biggest gathering of Christians on record, gave rise to the now famous concept of the “Filipino Phenomenon” which the pope himself noted.
Dela Cruz added, the relics mean to bring Filipinos closer to the late pope, particularly those too young to remember him.
But Radio Veritas news consultant Fr. Nick Lalog warned that the veneration of relics would be useless if the wonderful experience of them is not shared to others.
“If properly internalized, relics must lead us to God. They must show us the way to Christian living. If these conditions are not met, there is something amiss,” he explained.
In response to non-Catholics who accuse Catholics of “idolatry” because of the veneration of relics, Lalog said this is never the case.
He explained, “Catholics do not worship relics. Catholics’ attachment to relics can be likened to a golf enthusiast, who for some reason, has found Tiger Woods’ favorite golf club and decides to keep it to remind him of the legendary golfer. If we even treasure a handkerchief of our boyfriend or girlfriend, how much more of a person who has lived a life of holiness?”