“The Sto. Niño continues to proclaim to us that the light of God’s grace has shone upon a world dwelling in darkness, bringing the Good News of our freedom from slavery, and guiding us in the paths of peace, right and justice.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – On his concluding Mass, Pope Francis urged millions of Filipino who flocked to the Quirino Grandstand to be inspired by the Sto. Niño.
The pontiff’s Holy Mass coincides with the celebration of the feast of Sto. Niño. Many devotees brought with them statues of the Holy Child, dressed in robes, crowned and holding the scepter, the globe and the cross.
“The Sto. Niño continues to proclaim to us that the light of God’s grace has shone upon a world dwelling in darkness, bringing the Good News of our freedom from slavery, and guiding us in the paths of peace, right and justice,” Pope Francis said. “The Santo Niño also reminds us of our call to spread the reign of Christ throughout the world.”
Noting that the Philippines is the foremost Catholic country in Asia, the pontiff called on Filipinos to be outstanding missionaries of the faith.
He told millions of Catholics, “He [God] chose us, each of us to be witnesses of his truth and his justice in this world.”
The Pope’s message is both personal and political.
Pope Francis said God “created the world as a beautiful garden and asked us to care for it.” “But through sin, man has disfigured that natural beauty; through sin, man has also destroyed the unity and beauty of our human family, creating social structures which perpetuate poverty, ignorance and corruption.”
In his speech at the Malacanang palace, Jan. 16, he told Philippine authorities “to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor.”
The Pope said that when the Child Christ came into the world, his very life was threatened by a corrupt king. “He resisted the dishonesty and corruption which are the legacy of sin, and he triumphed over them by the power of his cross,” he said.
He said Sto. Nino “reminds us of the importance of protecting our families, and those larger families which are the Church, God’s family, and the world, our human family.”
The pontiff lamented that “in our day, the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.”
Touched by his visit to Tacloban and Palo, Leyte, the most affected areas by supertyphoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), the Pope said “In Christ, we have become God’s adopted children, brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“This is who we are. This is our identity. We saw a beautiful expression of this when Filipinos rallied around our brothers and sisters affected by the typhoon,” he said.
The Pope celebrated the Holy Mass at the Tacloban airport and had lunch with some of the survivors of the typhoon Yolanda. He had to cut short his trip due to typhoon Amang.
The Pope also asked everyone to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected and to care for the young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.
Earlier at the University of Santo Tomas, Pope Francis heard the testimonies of former street children and two young men.
Clearly, the Pope does not mean mere dole-outs but an act of genuine solidarity.
“We too need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage,” he said.
Before ending his Homily, the Pope said, “May he enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another, beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace.”
In his response, Cardinal Antonio Luis Tagle thanked the Pope for his visit. “Jesus is the center of your pastoral visit.”
The Cardinal then mentioned the workers, the farmers, the migrants, the relatives of the missing – those who are poor and those who are suffering that the Pope referred to in his messages.
“Every Filipino wants to go with you not to Rome but to the peripheries…We will go with you where the light of Jesus is needed.” he said.
“We want to go with you to shanties, prison cells, hospitals, world of politics, finance, arts, sciences,” Tagle said.
After Tagle’s speech, the Pope, teary-eyed, embraced Tagle.
The crowd, drenched in rain, shouted, “Papa Francesco, Mahal ng Pilipino!” (Pope Francis, loved by Filipinos)