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Rosary beads from Pope John Paul II

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As the whole world awaits the beatification of Pope John Paul II this Sunday, memories of yesteryears flashed back to my mind recalling an aborted audience with the Pontiff in Rome almost 16 years ago while covering the official visit of then President Fidel V. Ramos on Sept. 11, 1994.

Like every member of the press entourage, I was excited to see the Pope at close range and kiss his hand and be blessed.

We anxiously waited at the anteroom in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, to be called to cover the historic visit of President Ramos and then First Lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos, when an aide of the Pope informed us that only one reporter would be allowed to cover the event because John Paul was recovering from an injury he sustained while skiing a few months back.

To ensure there would be no favorite, we decided to draw lots and the lucky media person was Booma Cruz, a reporter of the Manila Times.

The Pope’s aide smiled but before he escorted Ms. Cruz to the main room, he distributed rosary to every one of us and said: “These rosary beads were blessed by the Holy Father.”

I was very happy to receive a rosary personally blessed by Pope John Paul II whom I first saw in person at the Manila Cathedral when he visited the Philippines in February 1981 to preside over the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino to become a saint.

I said to myself that though my close encounter with Pope John Paul II did not materialize, the rosary was more than enough as a memento I will treasure all my life.

The audience of President Ramos with the Pope was scheduled for 15 minutes but it lasted for 40 minutes.

During their conversation, the Pope said that he was looking forward to his visit to the Philippines the following year to attend the 1995 World Youth Day. After the visit, we immediately filed our respective stories.

I described Pope John Paul in my lead paragraph as “robust” when he met the Philippine president.

The Manila Times used my lead and the rest of the story came from Booma, who “confronted” me how come I deliberately described that the Pope was “robust” when he had difficulty in walking, and we laughed together.

I consider the rosary given to me by John Paul II as my most precious gift in all my life.

I feel “robust” within me every time I bring my rosary during coverages, especially in foreign trips to these days. Whether there is some sort of a “power” in it, I don’t know but that’s how there is to it as I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

I use this special rosary during my family Holy Rosary prayer every night to perpetuate the memory of Blessed Pope John Paul who was a passionate devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

His beatification on May 1 is a prelude for John Paul II to become a saint whom Filipino Catholics welcome with open arms for having visited the Philippines twice during his papacy, and once as an ordinary priest many years ago when he made a stopover in Manila and said a Mass at the Baclaran Church in Paranaque, Metro Manila.

When he was alive, Pope John Paul II repeatedly said in public how he loved the Philippines and the Filipino people.

On his beatification day, Filipino Catholics will chorus “Totus Tuus”, Pope John Paul II's apostolic motto which means “totally yours.” (PNA)

By Ben Cal




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