CNA Staff, Mar 22, 2021 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis on Monday encouraged students at Rome’s Pontifical Filipino College to welcome “the opportunities that the Lord gives you to follow him,” even while they are away from their beloved homeland.
Speaking in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall March 22, the pope congratulated the college, which hosts diocesan priests from the Philippines studying at pontifical universities in Rome, on its 60th anniversary.
He also highlighted the 500th anniversary of the first Mass in the Southeast Asian country, which took place on March 31, 1521.
In a reflection on the nature of time, released by the Vatican in Italian and Spanish, the pope urged students to embrace “the opportunities that the Lord gives you to follow him and to configure you life to him, even while being away from your beloved Philippines.”
The college is formally known as the Pontificio Collegio Seminario de Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje (Pontifical College Seminary of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage), in honor of a celebrated image of the Virgin Mary enshrined at Antipolo Cathedral in the Philippines.
The institution was established on June 29, 1961, and inaugurated by Pope John XXIII on Oct. 7, 1961.
“Let us thank the Lord together for these 60 years of priestly formation, which have given so many seminarians and priests the opportunity to grow as priests according to the heart of Christ for the service of the People of God in the Philippines,” the pope said, addressing an audience that included Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Filipino prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The Philippines has the world’s third-largest Catholic population after Brazil and Mexico. Around 85% of the country’s estimated 110 million people are baptized Catholics.
Pope Francis urged representatives of the Pontifical Filipino College to treasure the past without becoming trapped by it.
“It is good to retrace God’s steps in our lives, all the times when the Lord has crossed our path, to correct, encourage, resume, revive, forgive,” he said.
“In this way we understand that the Lord has never abandoned us, that He has always been at our side in a way that is now more discreet, now more evident, even in the moments that seemed darker and more arid.”
He also appealed to students not to get carried away by future plans, but to make the most of the present moment.
He said: “You priests are in Rome for study and ongoing formation in the community of this College. You are not asked to mourn the parishes from which you came, nor are you asked to imagine the ‘prestigious’ assignments that the bishop will certainly want to entrust to you upon your return… No, not that! This is fantasy.”
“Instead, it is a matter of loving this concrete community, of serving the brothers and sisters whom God has placed beside you — and not speaking ill of them! — to take advantage of the opportunities for pastoral training that are given to you.”