Philippine envoy relishes encounter with Pope

Alexis Romero ( - December 5, 2015 - 5:20am

VATICAN CITY – Stories about Pope Francis’ fondness of Filipinos continue to flourish and the Philippines’ envoy to this sovereign state has her own tale to tell.

Philippine Ambassador to Vatican Mercedes Tuason got an unusual greeting from the pontiff when she attended a Wednesday general audience. The event is usually held at the St. Peter’s Square and allows pilgrims from other countries to see the pope and receive his apostolic blessing.

“One time Pope Francis saw me at a Wednesday audience. His holiness told my companions, ‘This one will not be accepted below. She will go straight up.’” Tuason said in an interview.

“I wish he was talking infallibly on the issue,” she added, alluding to the doctrine of infallibility, which states that the pope cannot err on official Church teachings on faith and morals.

Tuason, who assumed her post in 2009, is known for her role in several civic and charitable groups including the Center for Peace Asia, Apostolate for Family Consecration, Bigay Puso Foundation, the Family Rosary Crusade, Red Cross, and Hero Foundation.

Tuason said Pope Francis did not forget the intimate name given to him by Filipinos during his visit to the Philippines last January.

“You must all know of our intimate name for him, Lolo Kiko, which he fondly talks about even to his bishops,” the envoy said.

“During the pope’s visit the Filipino people showed concretely their deep faith, love and affection for Pope Francis and what he represents,” she added.  

The Philippines and Vatican City will mark the 65th year of its diplomatic relations next year. Tuason said the ties between the two states have been “very warm and active.”

“We have been blessed with the visits of three popes Paul VI, John Paull II and Pope Francis. We have witnessed the canonization of two saints San Lorenzo Ruiz and Saint Pedro Calungsod. I would say, these are among the highlights of our 65 years of diplomacy, she said.

Another milestone of the diplomatic ties between the two countries is the designation of an official residence for the Filipino clergy called Pontificio Collegio Filippino. 

The Collegio was intended to house and train Filipino clergy on various ecclesiastical disciplines.

Tuason said the Collegio has become “a vital arm” of the Church in its spiritual undertaking in the Philippines, where more than 80 percent of the population is Catholic.

President Benigno Aquino III met with Pope Francis last Friday to reciprocate the pontiff’s visit to the Philippines last January.

Aquino also witnessed the unveiling and blessing of the mosaic image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the patroness of Bicol. 

The mosaic Image was created by Itallian mosaicist Roberto Cassio and was installed in the Vatican Gardens, where other images of the Virgin Mary are displayed.

The Philippines will be the 10th country to have its own nationally-venerated image of the Virgin Mary installed in the Vatican Gardens. The display of the Marian images allows pilgrims from around the world to discover the various devotions to the Blessed Virgin.

Aquino’s visit came as the Philippine Catholic Church is preparing to host the International Eucharistic Congress in January. 

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