MANDAUE rolled out the red carpet for San Pedro as tens of thousands of devotees gave the homegrown saint’s image a rousing welcome last night.
Police and barangay tanods who linked arms to form a security cordon around the image were no match for the rush of people – estimated at 20,000 – as the motorcade arrived at the St. Joseph’s Shrine at 7:30 p.m.
People clapped with many shouting “Calungsod, ayoha mi” as the saint’s image made its way to the shrine.
Organizers and security personnel first allowed devotees to touch the image before they cleared the area fronting the main altar in preparation for the last of the Triduum masses officiated by Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Antonio Rañola.
In his homily, the bishop rebuked political leaders and people who want Catholics to keep their faith private as he exhorted the faithful to profess it publicly.
“Regretable, but many among our politicians, many among our friends, want to us to relegate our faith to the realm of privacy,” Rañola said.
The prelate’s messsage came amid recent claims and counterclaims by Catholic bishops and lawmakers over the existence of a “Catholic vote” that could affect political candidates’ performance in the May 2013 midterm elections.
President Benigno Aquino III, who supports the Reproductive Health bill which the country’s Catholic bishops staunchly oppose, will speak today after the thanksgiving Mass.
Rañola offered last night’s Mass together with Bishop Christian Vicente Noel of the Diocese of Talibon and other priests at the National Shrine of Saint Joseph in Mandaue City.
In an bid to rouse those who may have slackened in their faith, Rañola drew parallels between Matapang, St. Pedro Calungsod’s persecutor who was Christian but apostasized and those who received the Christian faith yet did not practice or proclaim it boldly.
While faith is “an eminently personal act,” he said, believers should profess it outside their homes, in their daily lives and for the good of the country.
Faith cannot be considered only a private conversation between a believer and Jesus Christ, since it comes to a person through a community called Church, Rañola said, quoting Pope Benedict XVI.
He noted that San Pedro, “lying in a pool of blood, said ‘Credo,’ ‘I believe,” in the presence of his persecutors, the native Chamorros of Guam.
Last night’s Mass was a reunion for Rañola and parishioners of the shrine where he once served as the pastor. Many of the faithful sat on chairs that they brought for themselves in the churchyard since the shrine could not accommodate everyone. /Jucell Marie P. Cuyos and Jason A. Baguia