Filipino Catholics line up to venerate the blood relic of St. Pope John Paul II during its visit to the central Philippine province of Eastern Samar. (Photo by Alren Jerome Beronio)
A blood relic of the late pontiff, St. John Paul II, has been attracting young people in the central Philippine archdiocese of Palo.
The relic has been touring the country as part of preparations for the 500th anniversary celebration of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021.
"It’s a heartwarming experience seeing the relic for the first time," said Abbie Montablan, a 21-year-old seminarian in the city of Tacloban.
He said the arrival of the pope’s relic "is an inspiration to the youth whom he always paid attention to when he was alive."
"I am now more inspired to be a priest," said Montablan, a student at the Sacred Heart Seminary in the central Philippines.
Angela Ruby Tiozon, 16, said the visit of the relic was a “big opportunity for me to live up to the teachings I learned from St. John Paul II."
"The words 'don’t be afraid' by St. John Paul II inspires me to do voluntary work for the parish," said Samantha Cuero, 16.
Pope John Paul II, who visited the Philippines in 1981 and in 1995, was canonized in 2014.
Touring with the saint's relic is the "National Youth Cross," which was made for the Philippine Catholic youth ministry, in time for this year's observance of the Year of the Youth.
The year-long celebration, which started last December, carries the theme "Filipino Youth in Mission: Beloved, Gifted, Empowered."
The observance, which the bishops described as part of the "nine-year journey for New Evangelization," will end on Nov. 24, 2019, the Feast of Christ the King.
Palo Archdiocese spokesman, Father Chris Arthur Militante, called on young people to "venerate the relic whenever it reaches their parishes."
He said the visit of the relic and the National Youth Cross is "very timely because young people are facing plenty of forces that drive them from the Church."
Father Conegundo Garganta, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Youth, said the pilgrimage "seeks to be a meaningful moment to gather entire church communities and pray with and for the youth."
Relics have always received particular veneration and attention in the Catholic Church because of the belief that the bodies of saints have become instruments of their holiness.