Pope Francis on Sunday 15 December celebrates Mass in St Peter’s Basilica for Rome’s Filipino Community, telling them they have a special mission to share their faith.
During his homily for the Filipino community gathered in St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis began by drawing from Sunday’s liturgy. He said that “from the words of the Responsorial Psalm we learn that there are those “vulnerable people who also deserve a look of special love from God.”
The Pope was referring to “the oppressed, the hungry, prisoners, foreigners, orphans and widows. “These are the inhabitants of the existential peripheries of yesterday and of today”, he said.
The Pope noted that as the world prepares to celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, of Emmanuel, “we must ask the Lord to renew the miracle of Christmas every year, offering ourselves as instruments of his merciful love towards the least and the lowest.”
He explained that during the Season of Advent, we are called to “awaken in our hearts a sense of expectation and to intensify our prayer.”
Pope Francis said that “in the Philippines, for centuries, there has been a novena in preparation for a blessed Christmas called, Simbang-Gabi (Mass of the night). During nine days, the Filipino faithful gather in their parishes for a special Eucharistic celebration.”
He went on to say that, “in recent decades, thanks to Filipino migrants, this devotion has crossed national borders and has arrived in many other countries”, including Italy and the Vatican.
Through this celebration, the Pope continued, “we want to commit ourselves to manifest God’s love and tenderness towards everyone, especially the least.”
Pope Francis told those present that the people who had left their land in search of a better future, “have a special mission.” Your faith, he said, “is “leaven” in the parish communities to which you belong, today. I encourage you to increase opportunities for meeting to share your cultural and spiritual wealth, while at the same time allowing yourselves to be enriched by the experiences of others.”
The Pope concluded his homily by saying that, “we are all called to practice charity together with those who live in the existential peripheries, using our different gifts to renew the signs of the presence of the Kingdom. Together, we are all called to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of salvation, in all languages, so as to reach as many people as possible.”
“The Filipino people take their devotion seriously”
Filipino Sr Victoria Victorino is a member of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master and is attending Sunday’s Mass. She describes the Pope’s participation as very significant, because she says, it gives a sense of hope for the community, “especially for those who are suffering; those who are looking for some comfort.”
Sr Victorino notes that the Filipino people were very grateful to Pope Francis for coming to their country during an Apostolic Visit in 2015 following a devastating Typhoon that hit the country. “That’s how dear to him are the Filipino people, so we are very grateful for that”, she says.
Speaking about the devotional nine day series of Masses that precede Christmas, she says “you just get carried away”. “It’s the devotion of the people, you feel it; you see parents bringing their kids, the babies even for that special blessing.” The Filipino people, she stresses, take devotion seriously.
Asked how she would describe the faith of the Filipino community in Rome, Sr Victorino comments that the Christian faith in Italy is one of the reasons why people from her country chose to come here. “It’s really because it’s still a Christian country, where the faith, even if you don’t see it, you feel it; it’s still alive”.
Vatican News and Lydia O’Kane – “The Filipino people take their devotion seriously”