CEBU City: One of the privileged few who attended the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Manila in 1937, then a five-year old boy, Manila Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales said what the Jesuit historian and scholar Horacio V. dela Costa wrote during the late 1930s still holds true today: Filipinos have faith and love music.
This year’s 51st IEC, which officially began on January 24 at Plaza Independencia ends with a Mass at 4 p.m. today.
The 83-year-old prelate referred to what dela Costa wrote about the Filipinos being prayerful and music lovers. Filipino Catholics across the country have their own devotions to their favorite saints represented by icons and religious images in their homes.
“While 80 to 90% of the Filipinos may not have received formal instructions about faith, they are contented with the Theology of Touch,” he said, noting that this form of Filipino religiosity common in 1937 still prevails until today.
He was referring to the Filipinos’ practice of touching sacred images whenever they visit churches.
“Ang Theology of Touch, ang pagpupunas sa mga imahen ay isang paraan ng panalangin (The Theology of Touch, the touching of images is a form of prayer),” he added. The prelate added this is further expressed in how Filipinos value feasts.
He also observed Filipinos in gatherings have guitars to liven up occasions though technology has introduced videokes, which have gained wider acceptance here and abroad.
He said most Filipinos may not regularly attend Mass due to their distance from churches but they do remain steadfast in their faith. Rosales added scholars will never have measures for people’s faith.
Contrary to what some people say that church attendance has gone down in metropolitan areas, the former Archbishop of Manila said shopping malls, banks, offices, and even prisons now have regular Masses. He added the demand for priests to officiate Masses has remained high.
Rosales said he has received encouraging information about Filipinos actively participating in church activities abroad. He said he has visited various countries and has been told by his fellow prelates that Filipinos form a significant portion of their faithful.
“Ang Filipino ay kapit sa patalim, kapit sa Krus,” (Filipinos are willing to hang on by their fingernails and hold on to the cross.) he said. There are over 10 million Filipino migrants worldwide.
Referring to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in this city, the prelate said it is an opportunity for the faithful to remain assured of Jesus’ presence at every Mass.
“The Eucharist is not just the priest’s prayer, but is the prayer of Jesus to his Father, where Christ brings our prayer to his Father,” explained Rosales.
He went on to describe the Eucharist as a “beautiful sacrament” where Jesus Christ joins the people in prayer.
Over the years, Rosales said the message at every IEC is clear for the Catholic faithful to understand that Jesus Christ is with everyone during Eucharistic celebrations.
He said the event is a special privilege accorded Catholics.