ROME, Italy - The path to sainthood is hardly lined with roses.
According to Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, the case for St. Pedro Calungsod’s sainthood was beset by questions over his actual existence and motivation for martyrdom.
Was Calungsod real?
“Did he really exist? Because the Church does not beatify ghosts!” Cardinal Vidal said in an interview, quoting authorities from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints when presented with Calungsod’s case for the first time.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which is directly under the Roman Curia, is the body that takes charge of the beatification and canonization of saints and all the steps in between.
The dearth of documents mentioning the young martyr created the burden of proving Calungsod’s factual existence since work on his beatification started in 1986.
For Jesus or for friendship?
Another point of contention was St. Pedro’s motivation for martyrdom.
“Did he die for the priest or for Jesus?” Cardinal Vidal recalled one more question posed against Calungsod.
According to Cardinal Vidal, expert advice from a psychologist who studied what little is known of Calungsod cleared the point, saying, “On pain of imminent death, the motivation is always Jesus, not friendship.”
Calungsod is probably most known for the circumstances of his death in 1672 when he was speared to death together with Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores who angered the native Chamorros of the Marianas because of infant baptisms.
Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu, stressed how crucial documentation is to building up a cause for beatification and canonization.
“It’s not easy, it’s tedious work,” said Cardinal Vidal, whom former Vatican Ambassador Henrietta De Villa calls “Ama ni Pedro Calungsod” for taking up the cause of Calungsod when he was virtually unknown in the Philippines.
He also recounted how then Guam Archbishop Felixberto C. Flores, the first Chamorro bishop, invited Cardinal Vidal to Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores’ beatification in 1985.
“Come, so you will know who your candidates are,” Cardinal Vidal shared Abp. Flores’ words to him, referring to Calungsod whom Cardinal Vidal had never heard of before.
True enough, Cardinal Vidal would set the wheels of Calungsod’s beatification into motion the following year.
[Nirva'ana Ella Delacruz]