A pope for all

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2015 - 12:00am

 I watched all the television shows covering Pope Francis’ visit, and  switched   channels to compare the coverage. The cameras and broadcasters showed the same magical effect of a historical event. I was deeply moved by the sight and sounds rising from  the claimed 6 million of 1.2 billion Roman Catholic devotees who lined the streets for many hours, from dark night to rainy day, just to behold him.  The subject of adoration  came,  saw the heaving multitudes, was conquered.

As the pope swept through the streets overflowing with tumultuous crowds, I remembered the account in  the Gospels of Jesus’ entering Jerusalem – riding in the popemobile of his day, a donkey – with the crowd waving branches of olives and palm and shouting, “Hosanna” to the King of Kings.  I remembered, and hummed, the tune in the record, “Jesus Christ Superstar”: “Hosanna He Sanna Ho Sanna He Sana.” In this case, it was the pope entering Manila as a  megastar.

Everyone, yes I venture to say, was moved, and many of us shed tears, as he kissed babies at milli-second stops, embraced the 12-year-old girl at the UST meeting who asked why God allowed suffering, drug addiction and prostitution. To her question, the pope had no answer, kissed her forehead and embraced her. What could he say,  to that girl, or to the victims of Yolanda, who spoke about the fathers and mothers and siblings they had lost?

He called on the government, and individual believers, to transform themselves and wipe out corruption and injustice. He did not blame the past administration for mistakes, but for everyone today, now, to turn around, to demonstrate love and compassion for the poor.

I loved hearing the  “beloved” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, express, on behalf of  millions of Filipinos, his thanks for  the pope’s loving the Philippines and its people. I loved it when he said, “You often end your meetings and encounters by saying, “I ask you to pray for me.” We, Filipinos, promise: we will pray for you. But we also want to assure you, to remind you that Jesus prays for you. Your Holiness, you are blessed. Jesus prays for you. How blessed you are. And we, your beloved Filipinos, unite ourselves with Jesus in praying for you to God, the Father.”

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 The pope’s “seeming bias” for children brought  back to my mind  a picture of Jesus in the New Testament, turning indignant when his disciples shooed  children away from his presence, saying, suffer the little children to come to me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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I must confess that I have driven away a little child from a pope’s loving arms. This was during the visit of Pope Paul II at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in Morong, Bataan, on Feb. 21, 1981. I was one of the fortunate media persons allowed to bring my  seven-year-old son, Andres, to the site where the pontiff would hold a field mass.

Opened in 1980, PRPC was located south of Subic Bay and north of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The camp prepared VietnameseCambodian, and Laotian refugees, including ethnic minorities (such as Chinese) from those three nations, for immigration to a variety of resettlement nations such as Canada, NorwayAustraliaFrance, and primarily the United States.

The pope walked through the crowd,  picked up and carried small children. My son told me, “Mom, if the pope carries me, I will become a priest.”  I would have jumped for  joy  hearing his wish.  But I did not. I quietly  led him away from the pontiff’s  path. I did not want him to become a priest. He was my one and only child  born six years after my marriage. If  he became  a priest he would leave me for parishes far and away from me.

My son may have not noticed my veering him away from a possible future vocation. He went through his elementary schooling at Xavier School, a Jesuit institution, where at times he was asked to assist the priest celebrating mass, and obtained a medical technology degree at the UP-Diliman.

Andoy turned 41 last Jan. 3.  He has one son, Santi, an 11-year-old sixth  grader at Lourdes School. Friends tell me I raised him well. His wife Joabi wrote me a note one Christmas, saying  Andoy is so good-natured she could not find fault with him. She’s right, I think. Andoy has such a nice disposition and aura (that comes with good looks), that at  the two  times he was looking for a job, people looking for executives noticed him sitting quietly in a corner, had a chat with him, and immediately hired him. He is now general manager of Business Trends, a leading  recruitment and outsourcing company. He watched Pope Francis on  television these past five days, and, like the millions in the streets, in Tacloban, in cathedrals and the Luneta, he was moved by this son of God’s humility and love for all of God’s children – be they Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims. Andoy, the nearly once and future priest, is the second  of God’s precious  gifts  to me, the first most precious gift being Jesus.  

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That the pope is for everybody, not just for Roman Catholics, is evidenced by the numerous positive responses of non-Catholic Christians and people of other faiths, to his coming, homilies, and actions during this visit here.

Among the religious leaders invited to meet the pope at the University of Santo Tomas was Ephraim Fajutagana, Obispo Maximo XII of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and chair of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines. A press statement said Faujatagana described the meeting as underscoring “a significant milestone” in the ecumenical movement that aims to foster inter-religious cooperation.”

The NCCP chair expressed appreciation for the pope’s emphasis on the importance of the poor and the most vulnerable as well as the Gospel’s call to faithfulness and justice.

“We are a country of a few rich and many poor and those who seek to defend the human rights of the vulnerable are now defending themselves from various forms of abuses and perpetrators remain at large with impunity,” he said.

These injustices and social inequality, he said, are the roots of the armed conflict which the Filipino people wish to be resolved through the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.

NCCP general secretary Rex Reyes shares  the NCCP chair’s sentiments. “We give thanks to God that you have come among our people with a Gospel heart full of compassion for the poor. We praise God for your humility and faith, and ask God that just as your presence has blessed our nation, that the people of the Philippines may also be God’s blessing to you.”

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The inter-religious meeting lasted for about 5 minutes. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier described it as a simple “kumustahan.”

The CBCP had said the meeting would serve as a response to the call of the Second Vatican Council for the Church to work with “moderate elements” for peace, justice and harmony.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com


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