“I kiss the soil as if I placed a kiss on the hands of a mother, for the homeland is our earthly mother. I consider it my duty to be with my compatriots in this sublime and difficult moment.” Pope John Paul II
By Alex P. Vidal
THERE are good reasons for Pope Francis to drop by Iloilo when he visits the Philippines from January 15 to 19.
Iloilo is considered as a religious hotbed outside Metro Manila.
Some of the oldest churches and religious relics in Asia are found in Iloilo.
He will repeat history by being the second pope to visit the “City of Love” since St. Peter became the first pope more than 2,000 years ago.
Thirty four years ago, Ilonggos did not have to go to Rome to see Pope John Paul II, who came here on February 21,1981.
As a teenager, I elbowed my way to Jaro district where the entourage, that included the late Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, proceeded.
The Pope, riding on the bullet proofed “Pope Mobile”, passed by the Gen. Luna St. (I stood and waved at the Pope’s entourage outside the University of San Agustin) from Molo to the City Proper and La Paz districts.
He was greeted by thousands of Ilonggos carrying streamers proclaiming the papal motto “Totus Tuus” (All Yours).
Along the way the Pontiff, a vocal advocate for human rights who used his influence to effect political change, blessed people in the sidewalks and roads praying and waving the white-yellow papal flags and lighting candles.
Many Ilonggos cried when they saw the Pope for the first time.
They remembered him making history by becoming the first non-Italian pope in more than four hundred years in 1978.
A big crowd that overflowed to the Jaro public plaza prevented me from entering the gate of the Jaro Cathedral.
I stood outside the main gate and joined thousands of Ilonggo faithful who attended the mass conducted by the late Polish Pontiff, who crowned the image of Nuestra Señora dela Candelaria.
Pope John Paul II led thousands of Ilonggo faithful in singing religious songs.
The Pope’s message at the Jaro Cathedral was: “I have come to Iloilo City to tell you of my love in Jesus Christ.”
It was the greatest day for all Catholics.
Ilonggo faithful are once against excited to see Pope Francis, who told young Asians in South Korea in August 2014: “The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, ‘the way, and the truth, and the life.’”
But, as of this writing, there were no changes in his schedule which is all in Manila.
The Cebuanos also were trying to convince Pope Francis to visit Cebu.
When the Pope landed at the old airport in Mandurriao aboard papal plane Il Papa in the afternoon, he was welcomed by the church leaders of Panay Island led by Archbishop Artemio Casas of Jaro, Archbishop Antonio Frondosa of Capiz, Bishop Juan Nilmar of Aklan, Bishop Cornelius de Wit of Antique and Bishop Alberto Piamonte of Jaro.
Church bells all over the metropolis pealed and the faithful started to pray the Holy Rosary through the radio as the Pontiff stepped out of the plane and kissed Iloilo soil.
On April 21, 1982, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Nuestra Señora dela Candelaria the Patroness of Western Visayas in his Quod urbis.
He died on April 2, 2005 in Apostolic Palace, Vatican City and buried at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome on April 8, 2005.
Pope Francis, please visit us also in Iloilo.