Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda of Tokyo leads the unveiling and blessing of an image of Immaculate Heart of Mary at the main door of Manila Cathedral on Dec. 8. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Japan’s leading Catholic prelate led the observance of 60th anniversary celebrations marking the reconstruction of Manila Cathedral, which was destroyed by Japanese and American forces during the Second World War.
During the event on Dec. 8, Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda, who was representing Pope Francis, expressed hope that the Philippines and Japan will continue to forge stronger ties.
"The most important thing is the Gospel of the Lord bringing us forgiveness and reconciliation with one another," said the Japanese prelate who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis in May this year.
"I hope and pray that Filipinos and the Japanese would further strengthen ties and faith in the Lord."
The Japanese cardinal's presence as papal legate to the celebration signified "reconciliation and peace" between the two countries once torn apart by war.
In his homily, Cardinal Maeda called for the healing of "lingering wounds" the Second World War had created.
After Warsaw, Manila became the most destroyed allied city of the war at the end of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in 1945, which resulted in the deaths of up to a million Filipinos.
"The cry for peace screams out from the cardinal’s veins," said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila. He said the reconstructed Manila Cathedral is a "testament to the power of peace over violence."
"We will always rise again after every storm, earthquake, fire and war because we believe in peace," said the Manila prelate.
Father Reggie Malicdem, rector of Manila Cathedral, noted that two Filipino bishops — Archbishop Teofilo Camomot and Bishop Alfredo Ma. Obviar — who were present during previous consecrations of the church are on their way to sainthood.
"This is a great time for many of us to come together in our Mother Church, as we dedicate the table where, as one people of God, we offer our sacrifices and our prayers," said Father Malicdem.
In his message, Pope Francis lauded the "the noble church in the Philippines" for continuously sending missionaries to other parts of the world.
"When our predecessor Gregory XIII established around 440 years ago the Diocese of Manila, comprising the entire archipelago, had he thought at that time of how prosperous the development of the Catholic faith there would be?" read the pope's letter appointing Cardinal Maeda as his representative during the celebration.
The pontiff said the church in the Philippines "now stands among the great Catholic nations in the entire world."