Roman Catholic Pope Makes Philippines Teen Martyr a Saint

Depiction of Pedro Calungsod in the Heritage of Cebu Monument in Pari-an, Cebu City. (Photo: Nickrds09 / WikiMedia)

VATICAN CITY—Pope Benedict XVI canonized the Philippines' second saint on Sunday, 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 of about 80,000 when Benedict declared Calungsod a saint and worthy of veneration by the entire Catholic Church. Benedict named six other saints on Sunday, 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 people. He was killed when the natives resisted.

"May the example and courageous witness of Pedro Calungsod inspire the dear people of the Philippines to announce the kingdom bravely and to win souls for God!" Benedict said in his homily.

Rome's Filipino expat 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."

Filipino Vice President Jejomar Binay arrived in the Italian capital 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, where he was killed while spreading his faith.

"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, the capital, 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.

At a public gymnasium in the Manila suburb of San Juan, more than 1,000 Catholics applauded and waved Philippine flags with Calungsod's image after he was declared a saint. Victoria Radovan, a 66-year-old devotee, said she prayed to the new Filipino saint to cure her of polio. She said she hoped Calungsod's impressive faith would inspire young Filipinos away from dangerous vices like illegal drugs.

"Some of our young need to learn from his touching life," Radovan said. "They curse nowadays, they answer back at their parents and go astray like they have no fear of God."

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 Rev. 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.

The first Filipino saint was St. Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila, who was canonized in 1987.

20,000 Celebrate flock to Toledo's Calungsod Parish Church

The rainy morning didn't stop devotees from packing the Pedro Calungsod Parish Church in Barangay Cantabaco, Toledo City, where four masses were celebrated on their patron's day of canonization.

Many brought their own chairs or stood outside with umbrellas as the 1,500-capacity church was full.

Toledo city police estimated 20,000 to 25,000 came throughout the day.

Even the roads leading to the hilltop church   were crammed with vehicles because the church compound couldn't park any more cars, said SPO2 Socrates Aparicio.

A group of graduating law students from Negros Oriental State University arrived after six hours of travel.

"We heard about the miracles that Calungsod made possible for those who believe and come to him. We are here to pray that we can pass the bar exam next year," said Ritchie Diamano.

A family from Bacayan, Cebu city came for the healing Mass at 12 noon. Ailene Arcilla brought her son Winzel. She said Calungsod answered her prayers 12 years ago when her sickly baby was healed.

A group of teachers from Cebu and Mandaue cities brought their own food.

"We all agreed to take part in the celebration because this is a once in a lifetime experience," said Leo Daculan.

In his homily, Fr. Russel Sungcad, the long-haired parish priest of the first Calungsod parish in Cebu, said that God answers all our prayers but only grants something when it is intended for one's good and will develop one's faith.  He said Calungsod's sainthood is an example of answered prayer.

Out of thousands of martyrs who died for the faith, only seven have been elevated into sainthood, he said, "because it is already their time."

Calungsod's canonization means "it is time for our country to have a new saint to further boost our faith," Sungcad said in Binisaya.

After every Mass, devotees shouted "Viva San Pedro Calungsod!" and raise their hands in celebration.

Calungod's statue by the altar drew devotees who touched their palms to the glass case. Some wiped their handkerchief on the surface, and then touched parts of their body.

In midafternoon, the live TV broadcast of the Vatican rites were was shown inside  the church in two 40-inch flat screen TV sets loaned  by Asturias town mayor Allan Adlawan.

While most people watched the screen,   Sungcad continued with his prayers for those unable to attend the 12 noon "healing Mass".

The modest concrete church, built in 2003, occupies a one-hectare lot donated by Architect Servillano Mapeso and his wife Josephine.

Donations are being received to finish adding a convent and belfry.

The large crowd overwhelmed the parish priest.

"I was used to celebrating Mass with less than 20 people. I am glad that Calungsod brought in many devotees," said Sungcad.

Sungcad said he hopes donations will be enough to finish the church by December next year.

During his homily, he revealed that he wore his hair long and vowed not to cut it until the church construction is finished.

Sungcad's curly hair hangs about   five inches below his shoulders. The diocesan priest started growing it when he was assigned in barangay Cantabaco last 2004.

With more visitors in the barangay, vendors are gaining business.

Stalls lined outside the church sell souvenirs with Calungsod's face on  T-shirts, fans, statues, prayer booklets, and other items.

Now that Calungsod is officially a saint, Sungcad said they would ask the Archdiocese of Cebu to change the date of their annual fiesta from March 5 to October 21.

The church will also be renamed San Pedro Calungsod Parish Church.

Irrawaddy, Inquirer 

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