50 Cebu priests heading for RomeBy Ador Vincent Mayol
Cebu Daily News
AT least 50 Cebu diocesan priests will be going to Rome for the Oct. 21 canonization rites of Blessed Pedro Calungsod.
The travel will surely be noticed by parishioners find their local clergy members absent from regular masses and church tasks here.
To fill the gap, priests from religious congregations are being asked to take over Masses and other liturgical celebrations in Cebu, said Msgr. Achilles Dakay, head of the committee on pilgrims to Rome, in a press conference at the Archbishop’s Residence in Cebu City.
He said more than a thousand individuals from Cebu have applied for visas endorsed by the Archdiocese for the Rome trip, based on feedback from travel agencies.
A group of 10 priests, 10 nuns, and six catechists are being sponsored by the archdiocese, and need not pay for the travel or visa fees.
These are priests who will mark their first time to go to the Eternal City, seat of the Catholic church, said Dakay.
Priests are also in demand as spiritual companions for groups of pilgrims organized by travel agencies.
With the high volume of visa applicants, the risk of some Cebuanos overstaying in Europe illegally has been raised as a concern.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma last week said he has signed as many as 3,000 visa application which prompted the Embassy of Italy to write to him to say it was too much.
He replied that it was his duty to sign an application and the embassy’s job to “screen” them.
Dakay said he was aware of the problem.
“We tried to alert parish priests to monitor their parishioners who go to Rome. It’s a way to talk to them and make them return,” said Dakay.
Among those ready to travel to Rome is Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who finished processing visa requirements, said Dakay.
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said she is praying hard to be able to go after a hold departure order was issued by the Bureau of Immigration following the filing of charges against her in the Sandiganbayan over the P98.9 million Balili lot purchase.
Dakay reminded those who will travel to Rome to keep in mind their spiritual purpose.
“This is a pilgrimage we are making, not tourism. We are trying our best to really make this a pilgrimage. They should not stay there (beyond the allowed limit),” he said.