MANILA, Philippines?Pope Benedict XVI will address the Filipino Catholic youth on Friday through a specially taped video message in connection with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) as Asia?s oldest university.
The Pope?s message, according to UST Rector Magnificus Fr. Rolando V. de la Rosa, O.P., will be played during the High Mass on Friday marking the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the universal patron saint of Catholic schools.
The Mass will be held at the UST Grandstand and Open Ground, the same site where Benedict?s predecessors?Paul VI in 1970 and John Paul II in 1981 and 1995?addressed the Filipino youth during their Philippine visits.
?It is a singular blessing,? said De la Rosa, who noted that UST now enjoys the distinction?aside from other distinctions?of having been graced not only with three papal visits, but also with a papal video message.
The message is on top of the Pope?s dispatch of his special papal legate or representative to the celebrations?Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, the prefect of the Holy See?s Sacred Congregation of Catholic Education. In effect, he?s the Pope?s education secretary.
5 p.m. Mass
Grocholewski will be the main celebrator of a Mass that he will concelebrate with the Catholic Bishops? Conference of the Philippines, which is dominated by UST alumni, such as CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Surigao province.
The Dominican fathers, the founders and administrators of UST, will also concelebrate the Mass; they will be led by French Dominican friar Fr. Bruno Cadore, the new master general of the Order of Preachers.
The Mass at 5 p.m. is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of UST alumni, many of them coming from abroad, to renew their ties with their alma mater and toast her 400th birthday.
Presidents of local and international universities, some belonging to the International Council of Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas, which UST heads, will also attend the celebrations.
Only one in Asia
The video message of the Pope is in lieu of his actual presence at the celebration. The Apostolic Nunciature, the papal embassy, earlier relayed to UST that the Pope, due to his age and hectic schedule, would not be able to make it.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, during a visit of Philippine bishops to the Vatican last year, relayed to the Pope the request of De la Rosa and the Dominican fathers of UST for him to deliver a special video message during the quadricentennial celebration.
?His Eminence (Rosales) mentioned (UST?s) offer to bring a television crew to the Holy See to record His Holiness? message but the Pope said no need for that, he would ask the Vatican TV to shoot the message,? De la Rosa said. ?We?re very grateful, especially to Cardinal Rosales.?
De la Rosa said the Philippine bishops who called on the Pope said the latter readily agreed to taping the message because of UST?s unique stature as the only ?pontifical university? in Asia.
Established in 1611, UST is the oldest higher-education institution in Asia. It has produced key theologians and leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the founders of the Philippine Republic, Asia?s first republic.
Second in history
In 1902, Pope Leo XIII made UST a pontifical university, the second in history to enjoy such a title and ahead of even other European universities. In 1947, Pope Pius XII gave it the title, ?The Catholic University of the Philippines.?
As a pontifical institution, UST enjoys direct papal patronage and is expected to uphold Catholic orthodoxy and pray and work for the intentions of the pope.
Lorenzo Ruiz beatified
As an administrative manifestation of its papal ties, the president of UST, called the Rector Magnificus, is appointed by the Pope through the Sacred Congregation of the Catholic Education. Its grand chancellor is the Dominican Master General who is based in Rome.
In 1970, Pope Paul VI, in the first papal visit to the Philippines, delivered his address to the Filipino youth at UST.
Paul VI made special mention of UST: ?We wish to express first of all our great esteem for the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. It is a university which is one of the most renowned for the richness of its history, one of the most important in number of students and one of the most well-known for the care it devotes to education of high quality.?
In 1981, Pope John Paul II made his first papal visit to the country and gave his address to the Filipino youth at UST, which he called ?an illustrious university.? Later at the Rizal Park, he beatified Lorenzo Ruiz, the Filipino protomartyr of the 17th century persecutions in Japan, and his companion-martyrs, nearly all of whom were alumni of UST. It was the first beatification outside of Rome in history.
In 1995, during his second visit to the Philippines during World Youth Day, John Paul II again visited UST, which the Vatican had chosen to host the International Youth Forum, the intellectual-exchange component of the WYD. John Paul II spoke warmly about UST.
?As a pontifical university, Santo Tomás has a special right to the Pope?s attention,? the Pope said. ?In fact, this is the third visit of a Pope to the oldest university in Asia: Pope Paul VI came here in 1970; I came in 1981 and now God gives me the grace of being here again to meet the ?university world? of the Philippines.
?As a former university student and professor myself,? the Pope told the young people at UST, ?I feel a special affinity with you. I wish to encourage you to live the University experience with dedication and commitment, in the pursuit of human and academic excellence, with a great sense of responsibility toward your families and society, toward your future and the future of your country.?
In delivering a video message for the young people at UST today, Benedict XVI continues the tradition of close, warm ties between UST and the Vatican.
Earlier, the Pope proclaimed 2011 as UST Jubilee Year and gave an apostolic blessing to UST and all those who will attend the quadricentennial celebrations and visit the UST Santisimo Rosario Church.
On Thursday, cheers and applause greeted the unveiling of the Quatrromondial, the 10-meter bronze-and-glass sculpture by renowned sculptor Ramon Orlina, at UST Quadricentennial Park.
The monument shows four giant nude sculptures?representing the Filipino male and female youth, the Thomasian teacher, and the Dominican monk-scholar-preacher?holding aloft the globe and proclaiming faith in God and promoting the wisdom of the ages.
Thousands cheered and lustily applauded the appearance of actor and matinee idol Piolo Pascual, who modeled for the sculpture. Pascual, a UST alumnus, warmly waved back.
On Friday, after the High Mass marking the UST Quadricentennial and the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, a general alumni homecoming party follows. Thousands of alumni are expected to attend the Mass and reunion.