ROME - Anticipation filled the Filipino Catholics in Rome as Pope Francis is set to lead for the first time traditional Simbang Gabi in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City.
Thousands of ardent Filipino faithful from different parts of Italy are expected to participate in the Mass, which will start at 4:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. Manila time).
According to Fr. Ricky Gente, head of the Sentro Pilipino Chaplaincy, they also received calls from Filipinos not only outside Rome but as far as the United States just to secure their tickets.
“Super excited. Nandoon iyong pananabik sa pagsisimula ng Simbang Gabi na nakakagisnan ng bawat Filipino at dagdag sa galak at tuwa na makakasama pa ang Santo Papa sa unang pagkakataong mamumuno sa Simbang Gabi,” he said.
Gente explained that initially, only 6,000 tickets were released. However, due to the surge in numbers of Filipinos asking for the tickets, they requested the Vatican office an additional 1,000 more.
Cardinal Vicar Angelo de Donatis, the Vicar of Rome, and Fr. Leonir Chiarello, head of the Scalabrinians are among the 150 priests to concelebrate with the Holy Father.
The excitement is apparent in the atmosphere as the members of the Filipino community did their final rehearsal yesterday.
Sally Manila, representative of the worship commission of Sentro Pilipino Chaplaincy, admitted that despite being nervous she is excited to fulfill this once in a lifetime experience.
“Very smooth ang practice kasi may kanya kanyang responsibility ang bawat tutor at hindi naman nahirapan ang community kasi very aware naman ang mga nakuhang participants,” she said.
One of the members of the Sentro Pilipino Youth Ministry, Berkz Cepillo, shares how the youth came prepared more on the spiritual side. Recollections and forums were organized ahead to encourage and fortify the inner being of the youth.
“Ang journey ng Simbang Gabi ay isang malaking paghahanda sa pagsilang at pagdating ni Jesus Christ. Lahat ng recollection at forum ay nakafocus kung paano mo ihahanda ang iyong sarili sa pagtanggap at pagdating ni Lord sa buhay mo,” he said.
The official church to the Filipinos in Rome, Basilica di Santa Pudenziana, will hold the remaining 8 night mass.
In 1991, then Pope St. John Paul II appointed the basilica as the home of Filipinos in Rome. Now, it is the headquarters of the 63 religious communities in Rome.