During the historic pilgrimage to the Philippines of the incorrupt relic of the heart of Padre Pio (6-26 October), five million Catholic devotees rushed to venerate the remains of the saint, according to Fr. Jojo Gonda, rector of the National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Santo Tomas, Batangas. The Philippines was the fourth country to receive the relic, after the United States, Paraguay and Argentina. In the Asian country with the largest number of Catholics (about 83% of the population) the pilgrimage was longer and gathered an unprecedented crowd in the history of the local Church.
As reported by Catholic Herald, Italian Fr. Carlo Laborde, Superior of the Franciscan Capuchin Community of San Giovanni Rotondo, said that being in the Philippines was an experience of “extraordinary faith”. “The heart of Padre Pio has visited various countries in the world attracting numerous crowd… but (the visit) in the Philippines has been unprecedented,” he said. “Our heart has been moved to see huge crowd everywhere,” said Laborde. Last October 26, the relic left the national shrine bound for Italy at the end of a solemn mass (photo), presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo (photo), Archbishop of Cotabato. During the homily at the National Shrine of St Padre Pio in Sto.Tomas, Batangas, His Eminence Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato said people are called to “Christian discipleship” at a time when the country is in deep crisis because of the spate of killings and widespread corruption.
The cardinal said “Christians are not called simply to admire great saints like Padre Pio, but rather to imitate their virtues of humility and charity.’ He said the devotion to the Capuchin friar must be expressed not just by words but also by deeds. “The call to holiness then is the call of our times,” said Quevedo.