Jul 062013
A Filipino prelate who had the privilege of dining often with the late Pope John Paul II was among those who were least surprised by the Vatican’s announcement that the globetrotting pontiff will soon be declared a saint.

In a phone interview with GMA News Online, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said Pope John Paul II was such a prayerful man that he even “outprayed” priests at his dinner table.
“Ang tagal niya magdasal before and after a meal. Kaming mga kasama niya excited nang kumain, pero siya, taimtim pa ring nagdarasal,” Cruz said.
“Pagkatapos kumain, matagal na naman siyang magdadasal. Sobrang tagal natunaw na ata yung kinain niya,” the former President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) added in jest.

The Vatican on Friday announced John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 450 years, and the “good pope” John XXIII, will be made saints.

Cruz said his close friendship with John Paul II began when he was chosen as the secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) in 1983.

As an FABC executive, Cruz traveled to Vatican at least once a month to meet with other senior officials of the Catholic Church.

Cruz said John Paul II had an “aura of holiness” that the late Jaime Cardinal Sin once said he used to feel whenever he embraced the pontiff during meetings at the Vatican.

“May nararamdaman kaming space ‘pag niyakap namin siya. At ang sabi nga namin, yung space na ‘yun ay personal space niya na para lang sa Diyos,” he said.

According to the prelate, John Paul II deeply admired the faith of Catholic Filipinos, which he saw for himself when he visited the Philippines in 1981 and 1995.

Cruz said the pontiff in particular was overwhelmed by the passion of the Filipino youth for the Catholic faith.

“Bilib siya dahil malakas yung faith ng youth dito sa Pilipinas. Sabi niya, ang kabataan ang magiging pag-asa ng Simbahang Katoliko sa Pilipinas,” he said.

The archbishop feels Filipinos of an older generation—those who were already around during Pope John Paul II’s visits to the Philippines—are among those who are “very thrilled” to learn about his canonization. He hopes the news will strengthen the faith of Filipino Catholics.

“The Pope saw the Filipinos’ faith and he was very much impressed and edified by it. I hope lalo pang tumibay ang pananampalataya ng mga Pilipino ngayon,” Cruz said. — LBG, GMA News

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