Filipinos in Rome show strong support for Pope Francis

Pope Francis: Support from Filipinos. AP

VATICAN CITY—It was the first time Pope Francis’ name was used in a Sunday Mass.

“Strengthen in faith your pilgrim Church on earth,” the Filipino priest in the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass at Santa Prudenciana Church near the papal basilica prayed, “your servant Francis, the bishops and the saints, San Pedro Calungsod and San Lorenzo Ruiz…”

The invocation of canonized Filipino saints along with the new Pope’s name was not surprising since aside from the fact that Santa Prudenciana caters to the Filipino community, Filipino Catholics are among the most avid supporters of the papacy.

In fact, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle was considered a papal contender in the recent conclave, the first time in Church history that a Filipino was bruited about in the media as a papal contender.

Tagle and retired Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales and Ricardo Vidal will concelebrate the Mass with the new Pope during the installation ceremonies on Tuesday.

The Filipino community will later hold a thanksgiving Mass at Pontificio Collegio Filippino, the seminary of Filipino priests either studying or based in Rome.

Francis may have returned the support showered on the Church and the papacy by Filipino Catholics by describing the Philippines at a meeting with the retired Filipino cardinals as “islands of saints.”

A theological conservative like Benedict XVI, Francis is expected to project the pastoral warmth that may have been lacking in his predecessor, a scholar and thinker.

The two Popes will have lunch and a meeting on March 23 at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo near Rome.

In his installation homily, Francis is expected to emphasize the need for a heroic witnessing of the Christian faith.

In his first homily as Pope on March 14, he told the cardinals: “(I)f we do not witness to Jesus Christ … we might become a philanthropic NGO, but we wouldn’t be the Church, the Bride of the Lord.

“When we don’t build on rock, what happens? The same thing that happens to children when they build sandcastles on the beach. They wind up falling down because they have no solidity.”

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