VATICAN - Pope Francis to Filipino migrants in Rome: you are "smugglers of faith"
Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "I have often said that here in Rome Filipino women are “smugglers” of faith! Because wherever they go to work, they sow the faith”. This is what Pope Francis repeated during the homily of the Eucharistic liturgy he presided over on Sunday, 14 March in St. Peter's Basilica for the 500th anniversary of the Evangelization of the Philippines. The Pope invited all Filipinos to preserve what he called the "genetic disease" of the Filipino people, the "blessed infectiousness", "keeping bringing the faith, the good news you received five hundred years ago, to others".
The liturgy was celebrated by Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle of the Philippines, former Archbishop of Manila and now Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, Vicar of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome. Hundreds of Filipino immigrants working in Rome participated in the liturgical celebration, in compliance with the security measures imposed by the pandemic. During the entrance procession, the so-called "Magellan's Cross", which was used during the first Easter mass celebrated in Limasawa in 1521, and the statue of Santo Niño, venerated throughout the Philippine archipelago, were also brought to the altar.
Based on the readings of the day, Pope Francis re-proposed in his homily the fundamental dynamics with which the gift of faith is transmitted and linked it to the history of the Filipino people. "Jesus" said the Pope "is the source of our joy. The source of our joy is not some lovely theory about how to find happiness, but the actual experience of being accompanied and loved throughout the journey of life". The foresighted love of God is revealed "in the flesh of his Son. In Jesus, he went in search of us when we were lost. In Jesus, he came to raise us up when we fell. In Jesus, he wept with us and healed our wounds. In Jesus, he blessed our life forever", said Pope Francis. And only those who have experienced this love can “infect” others with it: "Precisely because he loves us so much, God gives himself; he offers us his life. Those who love always go out of themselves. Don’t forget this: those who love go out of themselves. Love always offers itself, gives itself, expends itself. That is the power of love: it shatters the shell of our selfishness, breaks out of our carefully constructed security zones, tears down walls and overcomes fears, so as to give freely of itself". And this - added the Pope - is also "the source of joy! God so loved the world that he gave his Son". In this context, the Successor of Peter mentioned his recent visit to Iraq, where he saw "a battered people who cheered for joy - thanks to God and his mercy". The Pope also brought this dynamic into connection with the history of Christianity in the Philippines: "Five hundred years have passed", the Pope recalled, "since the Christian message first arrived in the Philippines. You received the joy of the Gospel: the good news that God so loved us that he gave his Son for us. And this joy 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" (…).I want to thank you, then, for the joy you bring to the whole world and to our Christian communities. I think, as I mentioned, of the many beautiful experiences in families here in Rome – but also throughout the world – where your discreet and hardworking presence became a testimony of faith. In the footsteps of Mary and Joseph, for God loves to bring the joy of faith through humble, hidden, courageous and persevering service". Only this experience of gratuitousness - the Pope repeated - can generate an authentic missionary impulse, "which is not proselytism, it is something else. The Christian proclamation that you have received - continued the Pope - needs constantly to be brought to others. The Gospel message of God’s closeness cries out to be expressed in love for our brothers and sisters; God desires that no one perish. For this reason, he asks the Church to care for those who are hurting and living on the fringes of life. God so loves us that he gives himself to us", the Successor of Peter highlighted "the Church has this same mission. The Church is called not to judge but to welcome; not to make demands, but to sow seeds; not to condemn, but to bring Christ who is our salvation". Concluding the homily, Pope Francis invited those present and all Filipino Catholics never to be afraid " to proclaim the Gospel, to serve and to love. With your joy, you will help people to say of the Church too: 'she so loved the world!'. A Church that loves the world without judging, a Church that gives herself to the world. May it be so, dear brothers and sisters, in the Philippines and in every part of the earth".
At the end of the mass, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle thanked the Pope on behalf of the Filipino migrants in Rome. "There are more than ten million Filipino migrants living in almost one hundred countries in the world. They are united with us this morning. We treasure your concern for us and for all migrants in Rome, consistently manifested by Your Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, His Eminence Cardinal Angelo de Donatis and the Director of the Diocesan Office Migrantes, Monsignor Pierpaolo Felicolo, and the Chaplain of the Centro Filippino, Fr. Ricky Gente".
The Cardinal defined the arrival of the Christian faith in the Philippines as "God’s gift", and attributed the perseverance in the faith of the Filipino people "only to God’s love, mercy and fidelity, not to any merit of our own". The Cardinal thanked God "for the bearers of the gift these 500 years: the pioneering missionaries, the religious congregations, the clergy, the grandmothers and grandfathers, the mothers and fathers, the teachers, the catechists, the parishes, the schools, the hospitals, the orphanages, the farmers, the laborers, the artists, and the poor whose wealth is Jesus. By God’s grace, the Filipino Christians have continued to receive the faith, one of the sources of hope in facing poverty, economic inequality, political upheavals, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and even the current pandemic". According to the mysterious plan of God - according to Cardinal Tagle, who describes how the gospel illuminates the lives of many men and women who have left their homes in search of work - "the gift of faith we have received is now being shared by the millions of Christian Filipino migrants in different parts of the world. We have left our families, not to abandon them, but to care for them and their future. For love of them, we endure the sorrow of separation. When lonely moments come, Filipino migrants find strength in Jesus who journeys with us, the Jesus who became a Child (Santo Nino) and known as the Nazarene (Jesus Nazareno), bore the Cross for us. We are assured of the embrace of our Mother Mary and the protection of the saints. When we miss our families, we turn to the parish, our second home. When there is no one to talk with, we pour our hearts to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and ponder His word. We take care of the children under our charge as our own children, and the elderly as our own parents. We sing, we smile, we laugh, we cry, and we eat. 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". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 15/3/2021)