Filipinos embrace John Paul II anew as relic draws faithful
Wobbling her cane, Maria Aida Alonzo was the first to kneel before the liquid blood relic of St. John Paul II at the Manila Cathedral on Saturday.
Having three significant dreams of then Pope John Paul II, her gesture of veneration was an emotional expression of the faith of a woman in her twilight years.
“I am 85 years old. I prayed for my four children. I want a happy and peaceful death,” she said, shortly after her second opportunity to venerate the blood relic.
Alonzo was one of the thousands of Catholics who trooped to the cathedral for a Mass welcoming the blood relic of St. John Paul II, one of the most beloved Pontiffs in modern times.
The Mass was celebrated by Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who, despite apparently feeling under the weather, made an effort to deliver an eight-minute homily.
Ushers allowed the elderly, particularly those in wheelchairs or walking with a cane, to go ahead of the line in venerating the vial of liquified blood, which is encased in a brass reliquary and protected by a glass case.
Upon Tagle’s request, the relic was donated to the Manila archdiocese in December last year by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop emeritus of Krakow and the saint’s former secretary.
It is one of seven vials of the former Pope’s blood, which was extracted by doctors toward the end of his life in case of an emergency transfusion given the complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Although there are other relics housed at the Manila Cathedral, St. John Paul II’s relic is unique as it is the only one in the country in liquid form.
The stand on which the relic was placed during the Mass was just a few steps away from where the saint stood when he celebrated Mass at the cathedral on Feb. 17, 1981.
Alonzo, a resident of Paco, Manila, said she dreamed of the beloved Pope three times—before he was shot in the Vatican in May 1981, in September 2015 after she had an accident, and three days before Saturday’s Mass.
In 1981, Alonzo collected news clippings of the saint’s visit to Manila months earlier and sent these to the Vatican as the Pope recuperated from the attempt on his life by confessed Turkish assassin Mehmet Ali Agca.
“He wrote me back, thanking me for the generous gesture and said he appreciated it. He gave me his blessing. I kept it,” she recalled.
(The Pope later visited Agca in an Italian prison and forgave him. The Turk served 19 years in jail for the shooting. His motive remains a mystery.)
Second of 3 dreams
The second dream was after she fell down the stairs in a moviehouse and injured herself. In that dream, she said, the then Pope was embracing her.
The most recent dream was only three days ago, just before Alonzo learned that the Pope’s blood relic would be offered for public veneration on Saturday and Sunday.
“I thought now was the right time to venerate his blood relic,” she said.
In his homily, Tagle urged the faithful to become living witnesses of Jesus Christ and to “spread His love to the ends of the earth.”
In a hoarse voice, the prelate called on overseas Filipino workers to go to other countries not only to look for a living, but to “tell the Lord is alive.”
‘Jesus is alive’
“When you go to your neighborhoods, workplaces, school, recreation (places), show through your words and actions the testimony that Jesus is alive, I have seen Him,” Tagle said.
He added: “In your families, when you eat together, don’t just engage in gossip. Tell stories of how the Lord has appeared to you. Tell how the Lord has touched your lives, tell the world.”
Tagle urged Filipinos to take their cue from St. John Paul II, who became a witness of the faith and went to the ends of the Earth to tell the message of the risen Lord.
“Twice he brought that message to the Philippines, when he beatified Blessed Lorenzo Ruiz, and again in 1995 for the unforgettable World Youth Day … Pope John Paul II came to us and opened his heart to us. The Philippines is welcome in his heart,” Tagle said.
“Now we welcome him again, the relic of his blood … With St. John Paul II, let us be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the ends of the Earth.”
The prelate noted that the news of the resurrection of the Lord was spread “not by experts, scientists or knowledgeable people,” but by simple people who became witnesses of the faith.
“What made them witnesses? They met the Lord. The risen Lord gifted them a precious gift, He appeared to them. Not that they deserved or earned it, it was a gift. And they were true to that gift, they testified to Jesus Christ,” Tagle said.