ROME—The answer to why they came to Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II on Sunday was summed up by Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Mercedes Tuason.
“Pope John Paul loved the Filipinos and they in turn loved him as shown by the attendance of five million people at the Luneta for World Youth Day on Jan. l2, l995,” Tuason said.
Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales led the Philippine hierarchy at the beatification ceremony attended by an estimated 1.5 million pilgrims from around the world.
Tuason said she had five encounters with John Paul and each time she was overwhelmed by his holiness and his kindness.
When she fell from a ladder in her Makati home in June 2005, Tuason said she uttered a prayer to John Paul and Padre Pio—and it helped: She said she did not suffer any broken bone.
Former Sen. Francisco Tatad called the late Pope the “gentlest soul” he ever met.
“You could see all the love he has for you in his eyes. He inspired people to love the family and young people. He inspired me very much,” Tatad said.
In his declining years, John Paul would suddenly feel a surge of energy when young people sang to him. They affectionately called him “Lolec” (his nickname in Polish.)
Sharing the same affection for John Paul was Henry Estrada of the World Food Program of the United Nations in Rome.
“Pope John Paul II is different from all the other Popes. He had a different charisma. Just the look on his face showed he was very holy,” Estrada said.
Springtime of Faith
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who was ordained bishop by John Paul in l994, described the new “Blessed” as an extraordinary pope who changed history for creating a “new springtime of Faith.”
“When he was dying, the Pope became a more effective preacher. He was greater in death than in the 27 years of his papacy,” Arguelles said.
Also present at the beatification were Ricardo Cardinal Emeritus Vidal, Archbishops Carmelo Morelos, Paciano Aniceto, Benjamin Almoneda (also ordained by John Paul as bishop) and Fernando Capalla, Bishop Emeritus Raul Martirez, and Bishops Antonio Tobias and Manolo de los Santos.
Former ambassadors to the Holy See BienvenidoTantoco and Francisco Alba also showed their filial affection.
Thanking John Paul
Many Filipino priests were inspired by the holiness of Pope John Paul to become more committed to the priesthood. Among them was Fr. Emmanuel Colmenar who was inspired by the Pope’s 1981 visit to go back to the study of the priesthood, which he had left years earlier.
Colmenar’s coming to Rome was his way of thanking the late Pontiff.
With Colmenar were Fathers Tony Roxas of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Bacoor, Cavite; Ronel Ilano of the Imus Cathedral; and Andy Manaog of the St. Joseph Parish in Carmona, Cavite. They came with 38 other pilgrims.
Another priest inspired by John Paul was Fr. Stephen Simangan, who was ordained by the Pope in 1993 in Seville, Spain. During the “kiss of peace” part in a Mass, when John Paul hugged him, Stephen said, “I was electrified.”
Most loved Pope
Alvin B. Cuñado, a doctor of civil law from University of Santo Tomas, called John Paul the “people’s Pope and the most loved Pope in the history of the Catholic Church.”
Former Sorsogon Gov. Sally Ante Lee said that even when he was still living, “Pope John Paul was already a saint.”
Fe Fontanilla Elane, a history teacher, and her husband Efren were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with their trip to the beatification.
Jane and Neil Villarito of Ava Travel in Cebu named their two sons after John Paul. They are Neil John Joseph and Neil John Emmanuel.
The 50th anniversary celebration of Rome’s Collegio Filippino fell on Sunday—the day of the beatification. Blessed John XXIII founded the residence of priests on Oct. 7, l96l.
At 3 p.m., Cardinal Rosales officiated Mass with Cardinal Vidal and other bishops.