by Margaux Salcedo
The Catholic faithful today mourn the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who joined our Maker on the last day of 2022. He was known for his unparalleled intellect and doctrinal genius. But to me, as a humble Catholic from the Philippines, I am most grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for giving us our second Filipino saint.
Photo from L'Osservaore Romano
7 Blesseds It was Pope Benedict XVI who canonized Pedro Calungsod on October 21, 2012, along with James Berthieu, John Baptist Piamarta, Maria of Mt Carmel Salles y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Anna Schaffer. It happened on a beautiful day in Rome, on World Mission Sunday, and during the Synodal Assembly of Bishops on the New Evangelization. "The coincidence between this ecclesiastical meeting and World Mission Sunday is a happy one; and the word of God that we have listened to sheds light on both subjects," he said. "It shows how to be evangelizers, called to bear witness and to proclaim the Christian message, configuring ourselves to Christ and following his same way of life. This is true both for the mission ad Gentes and for the new evangelization in places with ancient Christian roots." He shared the passage from scripture that was the "blueprint" of the Blesseds who would be canonized that day: The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45).
And proceeded to tell us about their inspiring characteristics: First, "with heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord ". Second, "they chose a life of service following the Lord" and in "the generous service of their brethren". Third, their "tenacious profession of faith" and "configuration to the Son of Man".
St Pedro Calungsod He then introduced the 7 Blesseds who would become saints that day and our very own Pedro Calungsod: "Pedro Calungsod was born around the year 1654, in the Visayas region of the Philippines. His love for Christ inspired him to train as a catechist with the Jesuit missionaries there. In 1668, along with other young catechists, he accompanied Father Diego Luís de San Vitores to the Marianas Islands in order to evangelize the Chamorro people. Life there was hard and the missionaries also faced persecution arising from envy and slander. Pedro, however, displayed deep faith and charity and continued to catechize his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel. Uppermost was his desire to win souls for Christ, and this made him resolute in accepting martyrdom. He died on April 2nd 1672. Witnesses record that Pedro could have fled for safety but chose to stay at Father Diego’s side. The priest was able to give Pedro absolution before he himself was killed. 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!"
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle It was also Pope Benedict XVI who, a year earlier, on October 13, 2011, appointed then Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of the Diocese of Imus to become Archbishop of Manila, and who, a few days after the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod, on October 24, 2012, announced at the Synod that then Archbishop Tagle would be among those who would be elevated to the College of Cardinals on November 24 of the same year. Cardinal Tagle, as Archbishop of Manila, would create the Office for the Promotion of New Evangelization and today is Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization.
Catechism of the Catholic Church Unbeknownst to many, he was also President of the Preparatory Commission for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was presented to Pope John Paul II after six years of work (1986-1992). To this day, this book is an essential guide for all catechists. While we send our condolences to Rome and bid Pope Emeritus Benedict farewell, let us continue to honor him by going back to what he said on the day he became Pope:
"May Christ always take first place in our thoughts and actions!”.