Throughout his ministry, Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal always had a special affection for young people.
Yesterday, hundreds of young people gathered at the Archdiocesan Shrine of San Pedro Calungsod on D. Jakosalem Street, Cebu City, to pay tribute to the man who inspired them to strive to become responsible individuals.
Using colored pens, young people wrote down messages of gratitude and prayers for the 86-year-old prelate on pieces of colored papers which they later posted near the altar of the shrine.
Vidal’s body was brought on Saturday morning in a slow procession from the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in downtown Cebu City to the shrine dedicated to Calungsod, a lad from the Visayas who was killed by two angry natives in Guam in 1672 for catechizing and baptizing the people.
Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the canonization of Calungsod whose cause for sainthood was started and completed by Cardinal Vidal.
Before Cardinal Vidal’s body was brought to Calungsod’s shrine, it passed by the adjoining Archbishop’s Residence, the late prelate’s home for about three decades before he retired in 2011.
Bells at the shrine pealed as Vidal’s coffin made its way around the compound of the Archbishop’s Residence for the last time.
The number of people who visited the wake of Vidal grew, with lines stretching for about a kilometer from the entrance of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, as his funeral on Thursday approaches. The same long line of people wanting to pay him their last respects was also seen after his coffin was laid out for public viewing at the Calungsod shrine.
Cardinal Vidal’s remains were returned to the cathedral last night, with viewing open to the public until his interment on Thursday, October 26.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, in a Mass he celebrated at the Calungsod shrine at 3 p.m. on Saturday, said they decided to give ample time for people to pay tribute to the cardinal.
Palma highlighted Cardinal Vidal’s role in bringing together young Cebuanos, particularly during the annual Local World Youth Day which began in 1986.
“Let us thank His Eminence for such a love, and for reminding young people who they really are,” he said in his homily inside the jam-packed Calungsod shrine.
“This is our way of saying, RCV, daghang salamat (thank you so much). His life was a gift. We’re grateful for a life that inspires people,” he added.
‘Sto. Niño Cardinal’
In Rome, Palma said Vidal was often referred to by his counterparts as the “Sto. Niño Cardinal,” referring to the prelate’s height, which stood barely five feet tall.
“Yes, His Eminence might be short in stature, but just like the Sto. Niño de Cebu, it has influenced a lot of people. The Sto. Niño is small, but he is our bato-balani sa gugma (magnet of love),” he explained.
Palma said the Filipinos, particularly the people from the Visayas region, will forever be grateful to Vidal for giving the country its first Visayan martyr and the second Filipino saint after Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila.
For over two decades, Vidal tirelessly worked for Calungsod’s canonization even if it meant traveling to Rome several times just to follow up the cause of his candidate for sainthood.
Calungsod was beatified by then pope and now St. John Paul II on March 5, 2000, and was declared a saint by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012, ending years of anticipation and hard work.
Vidal and Palma led the Filipino delegation in going to Rome for the canonization Mass and other activities in honor of Calungsod.
“How happy was our beloved Cardinal Vidal when an announcement to canonize Pedro Calungsod was made. We know how much work he made for the process,” Palma said.
Out of the 44 persons who were beatified in 2000, only Calungsod advanced to be declared a saint.
And of the seven saints who were canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012, only Calungsod has an image, in the form of a mosaic, inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
A year before the canonization, Vidal launched a book entitled “I’m Old, You’re Still Young” to help educate and instill Christian values among the youth.
The book chronicles the dialogue between Cebu’s former chief shepherd and the youth on a wide variety of issues such as relationships, spirituality, entertainment, environment, fraternities to responsible media consumption.
Sixteen-year-old Jamby Caparida, in an interview, said she always looked up to Vidal as a lolo who truly cares for the people.
“He was our inspiration to work harder because he was a good leader of the church. We should follow his examples,” said Caparida, a Grade 10 student from Talisay City and a member of the Parish Youth Coordinating Council (PYCC).
Another teenager, Franklin Romadalle, said young people are grateful to Vidal for guiding them and for bringing them closer to the Lord.
“Not all of us really had the chance to have a personal encounter with the cardinal, but through the Local World Youth Day where he dialogued with the youth, you can really see his concern for us,” he said.
Vidal’s body was brought back to the Cathedral at 7 p.m. yesterday. It will remain there until Thursday for the funeral Mass before it will be laid to rest at the Cathedral Mausoleum.
On Friday evening, among those who visited Cardinal Vidal’s wake was Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who vowed to sponsor a resolution in the Senate to give the cardinal a posthumous award for the latter’s contribution in the church and for his peacemaking efforts.
“He is a big loss, not just to our country but as well as to me and my families,” he told reporters.
Sotto said Vidal worked with him in the establishment of the Regional Rehabilitation Center for the Youth, a facility run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Argao town, south Cebu, for young offenders, some of whom are hooked into illegal drugs.
“There are those who ask how the Catholic Church will help in the fight against illegal drugs. The Catholic Church has always been helping the government. As far as Cebu is concerned, Cardinal Vidal was there. I could always count on his support,” he said.
“Now, I have a new friend in heaven. He is praying for me,” the senator added as he showed reporters a rosary given to him by Vidal.