TABON-TABON, Leyte, April 26, 2016 – Touching the pilgrim relics of St. Anthony of Padua is not a superstitious practice but a personal encounter with the saint, said Fr. Mario Conte, one of the friars ministering at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy, and the editor of the Messenger of St. Anthony.
“Touching the relic is like extending your hand to St. Anthony, connecting with him to give him thanks or to say your petitions to him,” explained the priest during the short stay of two first-class pilgrim relics of the saint at the newly-built St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church here.
“It is a personal meeting with St. Anthony,” Conte further said at the altar before hundreds of faithful, believers, and devotees of the saint coming from different parts of Leyte, who started queuing for their turn to venerate the relics on Sunday.
‘He loves you’
Conte, who leads a team of friars from the Franciscan Order in Italy and Manila, emphasized: “St. Anthony is here to give you hope for new beginning because [he] loves you.”
Over a thousand people trooped to the church in Tabon-Tabon to kiss and touch the relics either with their bare hands, handkerchiefs or face towels, physically showing their devotion and affection for the saint.
The pilgrim relics of St. Anthony last visited the Philippines in 1996 on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Anthony of Padua.
Damaged by typhoons
The pilgrim relics which have been touring the world, include skin from St. Anthony’s cheek and piece of his floating rib.
The latter is the same relic that Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, held as he led a procession in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2000, and was received by Sr. Lucia, who was one of the children who received messages from Our Lady of Fatima in 1917.
Super typhoon Yolanda in 2013 and typhoon Ruby in 2014 severely damaged St. Anthony Church in Tabon-Tabon as well as the one in Sulangan, Eastern Samar. (Eileen N. Ballesteros / CBCPNews)