ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX ON "PILGRIMAGE" TO PHILIPPINE
Bishop Ramon Argüelles Reiterates Opposition to
MANILA, FEB 1, 2000 (ZENIT-FIDES). St. Thérèse of Lisieux's
relics made a dramatic visit to death row in Muntinlupa, Philippines,
this morning. The visit was the brainchild of Bishop Ramon Argüelles,
chairman of the National Jubilee Committee. Thirty-three men sentenced
to death for crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking
and rape were thus able to celebrate the Jubilee reconciliation.
Early this morning, a small aircraft circled over the maximum security compound of the penitentiary showering rose petals over the inmates, many of whom were puzzled by the event. A few minutes later, one of the main gates of the compound opened and a white truck carrying the Saint's reliquary entered, accompanied by Bishop Argüelles, Auxiliary Bishop Jesse Mercado of Manila, and dozens of Thérèse's devotees.
The relics were taken to the chapel, where the Bishops and 4 priests concelebrated Mass. During the homily, Bishop Argüelles, the Philippine Military Ordinary, referred to the time St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus prayed for the conversion of a death-row convict and her prayers were answered. Referring to the Jubilee tradition of pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem, Bishop Argüelles said: "St. Thérèse has come on pilgrimage to you"; the congregation responded with warm applause.
At the end of the Mass, the authorities wanted the motorcade to leave immediately, but Bishop Argüelles insisted the relics be taken to death row, especially the cells of 33 men scheduled to be executed in the very near future. Although the reliquary was too large to pass through the main door, the Bishop had it placed in front of the door and began to pray the Rosary, as the 33 condemned men took turns to pray quietly near the reliquary, touching it gently with their hands, their heads bowed in humility.
"We never expected this," stated Benjamin Ramos, who is charged with murder. "We were told that the relics were coming, but we were not told that St. Thérèse and the Bishop would visit us personally."
Prison Chaplain Fr. Silvio Borres, S.J., said "It was a very touching event in the lives of those on death row; penitentiaries need visits of saints!"
The reliquary was then taken to the medium security compound, where some 4,000 men are housed. As it entered, the inmates smothered it with flowers. In a brief speech, Bishop Argüelles asserted: "We are for the abolition of capital punishment."
Source: ZENIT, February 1, 2000 The World Seen From Rome ZE00020121