RELICS of St. John Paul II have been touring the country for solemn veneration in connection with the recent canonization of the Polish pope.

Organized by the Office for the Vice Postulator for the Cause for Canonization of Blessed Ivan Merz, “Totus Tuus,” derived from John Paul II’s apostolic motto which means “Totally yours,” is a two-month tour highlighting the sacred relics of the late pontiff.

The tour featured first-class relics of St. John Paul II consisting of his remains such as hair strands and blood stains from his 1981 attempted assassination.

The tour also features second-class relics consisting of pieces he used when he was living, such as the purificator he used during the beatification of San Lorenzo Ruiz at the Luneta in 1981, a piece of the bed sheet where he died in April 2005, his skullcap, a piece of his cassock, a rosary, a Missal, a papal medal, and a piece of chasuble.

Bro. Dave de la Cruz, vice postulator for the canonization of Blessed Ivan Merz and chairman of the tour, said it is a way of thanking God for the gift of a new saint who is very close to the hearts of the Filipino.

(Merz was a Croatian youth leader who lived between 1896 and 1928. He was beatified by John Paul II in 2003.)

“This is our way of celebrating the sainthood of John Paul II. At the same time is a way of promoting his life and holiness to the young people and enrich the devotion and love to those who have known him,” Dela Cruz said in an e-mail to the Varsitarian.

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Dela Cruz said it is also a way to call the laity to take their parts to be holy and to be closer to God.

“As we celebrate the year of the laity, we promote Pope John Paul II, so is Bl. Ivan Merz, a lay from Croatia beatified by the said Pope. They are two best models of lay holiness,” Dela Cruz said. “Every minute is an occasion to be holy. Let us also love our pope, for loving him, we also love Christ.”

The late pontiff’s relics are available for viewing until June 1. Its last stop will be at St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Marikina City.

‘Venerated, not worshipped’

But Dela Cruz reminded the Filipinos that the public exposition is made for veneration and not worshipping.

The Catholics cannot blame the other sects for branding the Filipinos’ veneration practices as “fake, fraudulent, doubtful, and unauthenticated,” Dela Cruz wrote in his book, “More Precious than Gold.”

“We respect their opinion, but for us Catholics, we need to clarify that relics and images are not worshipped but venerated,” Dela Cruz said.

He clarified that Catholics pray “through the relics and saints, and not to them.”

“Relics lead us to God our creator, who sanctifies us especially through the sacraments. Veneration is similar to respect or love towards a brother or sister who is close to us,” De la Cruz explained. “We pray through the saints because they are now with God. They are our brethren who pray for us and help us to be holy and be closer to God.”

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Pope of the youth

John Paul II visited the country two times — in 1981 and during the World Youth Day in 1995.

Aeron Salvador from the College of Education said John Paul II served as an inspiration to the Filipino Catholics, especially the youth.

“He is a very charismatic person, especially to the youth. He also visited the country twice. These are the reasons why he is very close to the Filipinos,” Salvador, also the vice chairman of the tour, told the Varsitarian. “

Salvador added that his faith conviction was personally strengthened by John Paul II.

“He is my inspiration in choosing Religious Education. I want to help in drawing the Filipinos closer to God, like what he did,” Salvador said.

It was in 2005 when John Paul II was beautified by his successor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

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