The Filipino priest who served 2 popes

The Filipino priest who served 2 popes

Fr. Rey Anthony Navidad of the Diocese of Borongan is flanked by Pope John Paull II and then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio during the 2001 consistory at the Vatican. SCREEN GRAB FROM ROME REPORTS

MANILA– Fifteen years ago, Pope John Paul II created the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio a cardinal. For a Filipino priest, witnessing the consistory first hand, up close and personal, was both a “gift and mystery”.

Fr. Rey Anthony Navidad of the Diocese of Borongan was a third year theology student in Rome when he was chosen to be among the acolytes of the largest consistory elevation of cardinals in the Church’s history, with a total of 42.

“For me it was a gift from God, strengthening my vocation, as if saying to me ‘do not be afraid and be like them brave servants of God’. It’s a mystery because I still can’t understand why me,” Navidad said.

Who would have thought, he said, that Pope Francis would come from the consistory which he served on Feb. 21, 2001. And not to mention, Pope John Paul II becoming a saint someday.

It was the same ceremony when the late Saigon Archbishop Nguyen Van Thuan received his red hat, and whose cause for canonization opened in Rome in October 2010.

The priest said he was watching on television in the middle of the night when Pope Francis appeared before thriving crowds on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“The moment it was announced that the new pope came from Buenos Aires, I immediately said to myself ‘this was the cardinal from the 2001 consistory,’” he recalled.

Then a student at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Navidad was the only Asian among the altar servers from different seminaries in Rome chosen for the consistory.

At the start, he recalled asking Archbishop Piero Marini, chief liturgist to Pope John Paul II, not to assign him as Missal book bearer “because it was too heavy”.

With a smile in his face, Navidad said, “But he refused and it turned out that I was the most blessed of all the altar servers.”

Fast foward to present day, Navidad is serving as parish priest at the Sto. Niño Parish Church in Lawaan, a fifth class municipality located around 116-kms south of the capital city of Borongan in Eastern Samar province.

A priest for 14 years, he is also the current superintendent of the Catholic schools in the diocese.

In his Facebook page, the priest has been using his picture during the historic consistory as his cover photo.

“The picture inspires me although it remains a mystery for me until now. It’s a continuous ‘why?’” he said. CBCPNews