A woman kisses the reliquary containing a relic of St. Anthony of Padua. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Hundreds of victims of typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippine province of Leyte welcomed the relics of St. Anthony of Padua this week, praying for the saint's intercession in the rehabilitation process of devastated areas.
The saint's relics are on tour from April 20 to May 2, the second time it has toured the Philippines. The first time the relics toured the country was in February 1996 during the 800th centenary of the saint's birth.
"The appeal of the sacred … fulfills a hunger in man for the transcendent, especially in our chaotic situation," said Father Virgilio Canete of the Archdiocese of Palo.
Archbishop John Du of Palo said St. Anthony of Padua is known as the patron saint of finding things or lost people.
Father Canete said typhoon victims identify with the saint who, as a Franciscan, "found God in the humble state of poverty."
"The weak, the poor, those who are losers can identify with him," the priest said. He said one cannot discount the simple faith of devotees especially in the midst of "finding a way out of their predicaments."
"Relics are not venerated for themselves but as a reminder, a memento of our heroes in the faith," Father Canete said.
One of the reliquaries being toured in the country contains the saint's floating rib, the same reliquary that was brought by then Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, now Pope Francis, in a procession through the streets of the Argentinian capital in 2000.
In his writings, the saint often speaks of mercy, describing God as the "Father of Mercy." Pope Francis' devotion to St. Anthony was due to the saint’s love, care and concern for the poor and marginalized.
St. Anthony of Padua was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946. He died at 36 in Padua, Italy, in 1231, and was canonized within a year. His remains are kept in the Pontifical Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy.