HomeNewsFilipinos in Rome have a 'grandfather' in Pope Francis, says Cardinal Tagle

Filipinos in Rome have a ‘grandfather’ in Pope Francis, says Cardinal Tagle

Cardinal Tagle said that despite difficulties and weaknesses, Filipino Christians continue to turn to God as their source of hope and strength

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, former prelate of Manila, expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for his concern for Filipino migrants in Rome.

Citing the Filipino’s affection for the elderly, an emotional Cardinal Tagle said, “Here in Rome, when we miss our grandfathers, we know we have a ‘Lolo Kiko.'”

“Lolo Kiko,” or “Grandpa Kiko,” was the nickname used by Filipinos for the pontiff during his 2015 visit to the Philippines where millions of people greeted him from Manila to Tacloban in the central part of the country.

Pope Francis led the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Sunday, March 14, St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.

Cardinal Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said migrant Filipino workers cope with loneliness by holding on to Jesus “who became a Child (Santo Niño) and known as the Nazarene (Jesus Nazareno), bore the Cross for us.”

The former archbishop of Manila said that despite their difficulties and weaknesses, Filipino Christians continue to turn to God as their source of hope and strength.

“We attribute the enduring faith of the Filipino people only to God’s love, mercy and fidelity, not to any merit of our own,” he said.

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He called on the Filipino faithful to continue sharing the gift of faith wherever they go.

“We pray that through our Filipino migrants, the name of Jesus, the beauty of the Church, and the justice, mercy and joy of God may reach the ends of the earth,” said Cardinal Tagle.

After the cardinal delivered his message, Pope Francis received a painting by artist Ryan Carreon Aragon showing Doña Juana receiving the Santo Niño from Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle greets Pope Francis after the celebration of the Mass for the quincentennial of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines on March 14, 2021. (Vatican Media photo)

In his homily during the Mass, Pope Francis called on Filipinos to renew their commitment to Christ as missionary disciples.

The pontiff said the Filipino people’s “discreet and hardworking presence” around the world “became a testimony of faith.”

Filipino Catholics who live in Rome attended the Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was also live-streamed for people to watch around the world.

Italy has one of the largest populations of Filipino migrant workers in western Europe with over 165,000 overseas Filipinos living in the country as of 2014.

Mass began with a procession of eight representatives of the Filipino community dancing and carrying the cross of Magellan and the Holy Child of Cebu.

The pontiff noted that even after 500 since the Christian message arrived in the Philippines, the “joy of the Gospel … is evident in your people.”

“We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers. In the joy with which you bring your faith to other lands,” he told the Filipino faithful who attended the Mass.

The pope called on Filipinos “to persevere in the work of evangelization – not proselytism, which is something else.”

Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who led a Spanish expedition, reached what is today known as the Philippines on March 16, 1521.

The first Catholic Mass and first baptism took place in the Philippines days later.

Today, the Philippines has the third largest number of Catholics in the world. An estimated 86 percent of the 108 million population of the Philippines is Catholic.

Philippine Catholic Church leaders will formally inaugurate on Easter Sunday, April 4, the year-long celebration of the fifth centenary with the opening of the “Holy Doors” of pilgrim churches across the country.

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