Bishop urges prayers for priests in Sto. Niño Mass
CEBU CITY — “Pray for your priests.”
This was the appeal of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma as he presided over the 6 a.m. Mass in celebration of the feast of the Sto. Niño on Sunday.
Speaking before a huge crowd at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño’s Pilgrim Center, he said priests need God’s help so that they would be able to perform their tasks well and serve the flock entrusted to their care.
“We became priests, not because we are worthy, but because of God’s love. Despite our unworthiness, we were chosen by God,” said Palma in his homily.
“And so may we grow in humility because before the Almighty God, we have nothing to boast of or brag about,” he added.
Palma’s message was centered on the pastoral thrust of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.
At present, the Archdiocese of Cebu is the home of 400 diocesan priests, 200 others from various religious congregations, and about four million lay Catholics—the largest in the country.
Palma challenged all priests to make themselves available to people in need, and to serve God and neighbors joyfully.
“The world has known of so much pain and problems. A priest should always be joyful and grateful. Frowning must have no space in the ministry as there should be joy in service,” Palma said.
He also called on priests to emulate the virtues of the late Cebuano Archbishop Teofilo Camomot who was known for his extreme generosity and love for the poor.
“As we process his (Camomot) cause for sainthood, we must also try to follow his example. He is there to serve as our model,” he said.
Joining Palma during the Mass were Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo; Bishop Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog, Samar; Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos City in Negros Occindetal, retired Bishop Antonio Rañola, and at least 80 priests.
Palma said the scenes during the fluvial and street processions as well as the dancing of the traditional Sinulog at the basilica were awesome. “We prayed to God, and He answered our prayers. May this faith lead us to love and do good works in order to attain peace,” the prelate said.
During the offertory, people waved their hands in the air as they sang “Bato-Balani sa Gugma (Magnet of Love),” an ancient Cebuano hymn in honor of the Sto. Niño.
Despite the prohibition, some people — most of whom were staying outside the basilica — managed to release balloons with rolled pieces of paper containing prayer petitions.
Since the basilica’s courtyard was packed, devotees spilled over to the streets.
They watched the Eucharistic celebration on large LED screens installed around the basilica. After the Mass, Palma and the bishops led the faithful in dancing the traditional Sinulog at the Pilgrim Center.
Nine other Masses, most of which were celebrated by bishops from different dioceses in the country, were held to celebrate the feast of the Sto. Niño on Sunday.
Several people also lined up to kiss and venerate the original image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu housed inside a bullet-proof glass case inside the centuries-old church. /cbb
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