Plane accident survivor finds meaning in meeting 4 popes
MANILA, Philippines—Lawyer Carlos Serapio considers himself blessed.
The 64-year-old has met four Popes in person, including Pope Francis during his four-day apostolic visit.
But after Saturday, Serapio should perhaps consider himself five times blessed, having survived the near plane crash in Tacloban City.
Serapio was with his boss, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, and other government officials when their plane skidded off the runway at the Tacloban airport as it prepared to take off for Manila.
“I’m trying to reflect on what all of this means,” Serapio said in a phone interview.
That close call on Saturday has made all of Serapio’s encounters with the Pontiffs interesting.
He was able to meet Pope John Paul II—who was canonized recently—as one of the political prisoners freed by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in time for the Pontiff’s visit in 1981.
In November 1970, Serapio met Blessed Pope Paul VI as the representative of the student sector to the Asian Bishops Conference in Manila. The teenage Serapio was the secretary general of the Student Catholic Action.
He saw Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican during the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod in 2012.
Serapio considers that he had met Pope St. John XXIII “virtually” because as a child he had listened to discussions on the Second Vatican Council on the radio with his grandmother.
“It wasn’t a personal meeting but I consider it my first encounter with a Pope,” Serapio said.
Now, with Francis in Manila, Serapio was able to meet a Pope up close once again and even got a chance to kiss the Pontiff’s ring.
Serapio said that after seeing Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, it dawned on him “why I was meeting these Popes.”
His “blessed encounters,” as Serapio describes his meetings with the Popes, are his inspirations in “continuing our work for social and political transformation.”
“I certainly would like to think it is an inspiration to us to try to use our faith as the reason we should be involved in transforming our systems and at the same time building up leaders of the country,” he said.