5 million people turn out for Padre Pio’s heart relic
By Roy Lagarde
October 26, 2018
Santo Tomas, Batangas
An estimated five million people flocked to venerate the incorrupt heart relic of Saint Padre Pio as its three-week visit to the Philippines came to an end Friday.
The turnout is thought to be the largest relic visit event in the church’s history.
Fr. Jojo Gonda, rector of the National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Santo Tomas, Batangas, said that authorities estimated that between four to five million people venerated the relic.
“My gut feeling for the whole visit around the country is four to five million because I was there all the time,” Gondo said.
The Philippines is the fourth country visited by the relic after the United States, Paraguay and Argentina.
It was brought to the country by the Capuchin friars who run the Shrine of Padre Pio in the saint’s hometown of San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy.
But the visit to Asia’s largest Catholic nation holds the distinction of having the longest time the relic stayed in a country and with an unprecedented crowd.
Italian Fr. Carlo Laborde, Superior of the Franciscan Capuchin Community of San Giovanni Rotondo, said that being in the Philippines was an experience of “extraordinary faith”.
“The heart of Padre Pio has visited various countries in the world attracting numerous crowd… but (the visit) in the Philippines has been unprecedented,” he said.
“Our heart has been moved to see huge crowd everywhere,” said Laborde.
From October 6 to 26, the saint’s relic moved around the country, stopping in Santo Tomas, and the cities of Manila, Cebu, Davao and Lipa.
Though it rained in some days, the weather did not dampen the spirits of the faithful, motivated to see the relic that they believe is an answer to their prayers.
Crowd lined the streets patiently and calmly, with many queued for three to five hours just to venerate the relic.
“It seems they found something unique and different with the heart relic because this is the only heart relic that visited us,” Gondo said.
“At this time when people are suffering from inflation, poverty, extrajudicial killings they want a meaningful symbol or will give meaning to what is happening to them,” he said.
The relic left the national shrine after a farewell Mass presided over by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato.
It was immediately brought to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where it was displayed for public veneration for the NAIA’s employees and other government officials.
The relic departed for Italy at 6pm.