Pope Benedict XVI canonized the Philippines’ second saint yesterday, giving one of the church’s top honors to the 17th century teen martyr Pedro Calungsod before throngs of Filipinos in St Peter’s Square.
Cheers went up in the crowd when Benedict declared Calungsod a saint yesterday, some of them missionaries like the devout boy from central Cebu province.
Many Filipino faithful are particularly devoted to Calungsod, who as a teenager went with some Spanish Jesuit missionaries to Guam in 1668 to convert the Chamorros natives. He was killed when the natives resisted.
Rome’s Filipino expatriate community came out in droves for the canonization, including Marianna Dieza, a 39-year-old housekeeper who said it was a day of pride for all Filipinos.
“We feel very happy and proud,” Dieza said. “We are especially proud because he is so young.”
Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay arrived in Rome last week to head the government delegation for the Mass, saying the canonization was particularly important to the Philippines, Asia’s largest predominantly Roman Catholic country.
Thousands of Filipinos at home celebrated Calungsod’s sainthood with Masses, processions, stage plays, religious shows and the launching of postal stamps bearing his image and a map of his journey as a young Catholic missionary to the Pacific islands.
“This is a day of great spiritual joy and national pride,” Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s spokeswoman, Abigail Valte, said. “We join the Catholic world on this day of solemn commemoration and celebration.”
Celebrations across the Philippines were centered in Manila and in Cebu’s town of Ginatilan. Large screens were installed in church compounds to allow Filipinos to watch Calungsod’s canonization at the Vatican. Calungsod’s portraits were displayed in churches and many bought and carried his statues.
Philippine TV networks ran documentaries about Calungsod’s life and sainthood, and the country’s leading newspapers ran stories of his canonization, portraying him as a model for young Filipinos.
Details of Calungsod’s life are scarce, but according to legend, when he and the mission superior, the Reverend Diego Luis de San Vitores, tried to baptize a baby in 1672, the child’s father angrily refused and, with the help of other natives, began throwing spears at them both.
They were both killed and their bodies thrown into the ocean.
He qualified for sainthood last year after the Vatican officially recognised a 2003 “miracle” in which a 49-year-old Filipina woman declared dead from a heart attack was revived after a doctor prayed to Calungsod for help.
The Vatican said the incident could not be explained scientifically, and Pope Benedict subsequently acknowledged the incident as a miracle by Calungsod
“He was just a teenager, he is just a boy and he defended the Catholic faith,” Filipino pilgrim Jennifer Icao-Calleja said last week. “It is very important to the youth that at least we have to maintain our faith to God.”
The first Filipino saint was St Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila, who was canonized in 1987.
Additional reporting by AFP