Breaking: Pope, Cardinal Tagle concelebrate Mass to usher in celebration of 500 years of Christianity

“Discreet and hardworking presence” of Filipinos in Rome

Teodoro ’Ted’ Alcuitas

“Here in Rome, when we miss our grandfathers, we know we have a Lolo Kiko. Thank you very much, Holy Father. “

With these words, an emotional Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines ended his greeting to the Holy Father on behalf fo the Filipino people at the end of the mass at the Vatican today (March 14).

Attended by about 100 mostly Filipino parishioners due to pandemic restrictions, the moving eucharistic celebration saw a procession of a Filipino couple carrying the image of the Santo Nino and a wooden cross followed by women interpretive dancers. The image is said to be a gift to the Indigenous Filipino chieftain, Rajah Humabon and his wife who embraced the faith. The cross was planted in the central island of Cebu. Both icons are now deeply venerated by devotees in the annual ‘Pit Senyor’ in the city.

Readings were done in English, Italian and Tagalog, ( not Filipino ) – perhaps an oversight or proof of the endurance of the colonial mentality of Filipinos all these 500 years.

The Vatican Media commentator, Sr. Bernadette, described Tagalog as the official Filipino language which is not.

Filipino is officially the national language and not Tagalog but it’s pervasive misidentification is part of our historical forgetting or amnesia. For English too, was mandated by the American colonizers to be the official language before Filipino.

A Filipino choir accompanied the celebration who sung mostly Filipino liturgical music.

Tagle expressed the gratitude of the Filipino migrants in Rome to the Pope “for leading us in this Eucharistic celebration in thanksgiving for the arrival of the Christian faith in the Philippines five hundred years ago.”

“We treasure your concern for us and for all migrants in Rome, “ Tagle adds.

The former Archbishop of Manila and now Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples,

 expressed the gratitude of all Filipinos for the Pope’s gesture of closeness.

The Italian capital Rome is home to the largest Filipino community. Roughly 108,000 documented Filipinos reside in Italy as temporary workers or permanent residents, and estimates on the number of undocumented Filipinos vary widely from 20,000 to 80,000, according to Wikipedia.

For his part, Pope Francis  acknowledged the “discreet and hardworking presence” of Filipinos in Rome , calling them missionary disciples and urge them to “persevere in the work of evangelization.”

“We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers,” he said. “I want to thank you for the joy you bring to the whole world and to our Christian communities.”

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