QUEZON City, April 22, 2014—Ordinary Filipinos who find the “road leading to Rome” way beyond their means have a rare chance to take part in the historic double canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27 (Divine Mercy Sunday) with a live streaming event being organized by the Church-run media group Jesuit Communications (JesCom).
“This is one very special thing I cannot miss,” shared Neomi Agustín, a housewife who was a sixth grade student when Pope John Paul II visited Manila for the 1995 World Youth Day celebration.
Live streaming from Rome
The highlight of the program, which will be held at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, is live streaming of the canonization rites in St. Peter’s Basilica, which will be presided over by Pope Francis and watched by millions of television viewers from around the world.
According to JesCom’s Dit G. Sablan, the event billed as “Shepherds, Servants & Saints” will be held in the building in Cubao’s commercial district, which John Paul II affectionately renamed the “Collosseo of Papal Audiences” during his first pastoral visit to the Philippines in 1981.
“Shepherd in the Bible represents personal care and mercy. Servant in the Bible represents service and humility. Saints in the Bible represent consecration and holiness. Thus, the title ‘Shepherds, Servants & Saints’ captures the various themes that we would like to convey to the faithful,” Sablan added.
To cap the occasion, Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle will be celebrating holy mass in honor of the now “pope-saints” who, for many Catholics, had been two of the most admired and beloved pontiffs in the Church’s recent history.
Famous among Pinoys
Having visited the country three times (the first being an unofficial stopover as Kraków archbishop), John Paul II is, even years after his death, still the pope most familiar to Filipinos. Most notably during the 1995 World Youth Day celebration in Manila, the Polish pontiff attracted an audience of between four to six million people, prompting record book Guinness to call it the “largest papal crowd”.
“I was among the lucky few St. Paul students chosen by my school to welcome the Pope [John Paul II] with flowers and streamers at the old Manila International Airport. I remember everyone, including me, was in joyful tears that day just seeing the Vicar of Christ even from afar getting out of his Alitalia plane and blessing the crowd. On that one brief moment, we felt as though God literally came down from heaven. It was an experience like no other,” recalled Agustín.
Blessed Pope John XXII, while not as famous now as his successor John Paul II, was as much a “giant” in his own right. Nicknamed the “Good Pope” for his affectionate ways, wit, and charm, John XXIII was the face of the Church during the turbulent years of the early sixties and was a highly-esteemed figure even in Protestant and Jewish circles.
With the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) he had first convened, John XXII ushered the almost 2,000-year old Church gracefully into the 20th century. (Raymond A. Sebastián)