Fragments of Diplomacy: Brief encounter with "living saint"
Many years ago in 1958, during my first foreign posting in New Delhi, I met Mother Theresa of Calcutta who went to the Philippine Embassy to get a visa for the Philippines. And I had a photo with her. Years later, my youngest sister Merle wrote me that I was lucky in the sense that during my first posting in our foreign service, I met a "living saint" for subsequently, Mother Theresa was beatified.
By Rudy Arizala
When in 1981, I was instructed by then foreign secretary Carlos P. Romulo to open a resident embassy in Santiago, Chile little did I know that I would also be meeting another "living saint" this time with my wife, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, scheduled to be beatified on 01 May 2011.We met the Holy Father on 03 April 1987, during his pastoral visit to Chile. When I left Manila for Santiago, I did not know that I shall meet another "living saint", this time Pope John Paul II.
Ambassador Rudy Arizala greeting the late Pope John Paul II in 1987
Neneto greets the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, while the Papal Nuncio and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Chile, Msgr. Angelo Sodano, looks on.
May I share with you the photos below as well as what I wrote based on my Notebook - "Fragments of Diplomacy", now gathering dusts on my book shelves.
FRAGMENTS OF DIPLOMACY
BRIEF ENCOUNTER WITH A “LIVING SAINT”
by Rodolfo A. Arizala
30 April 2011
The beatification of the late Pope John Paul II on 01 May 2011, the Feast of Divine Mercy, reminds me of the Papal six-day visit to Chile from 1 to 6 April 1987, almost a quarter of century ago. During his travel in said country from north to south, after crowning the image of “Virgen del Carmen de los Andes”, the patron saint of Chile, his main theme was “Love is more powerful”.
Also, during said visit to Chile, Mrs. Arizala and I had the rare opportunity of meeting Pope John Paul II. I recall that on 03 April 1987, it was reported that in the early morning of said day the Holy Father was up already. He visited the Maipu Temple in Santiago where he crowned the image of the Virgen del Carmen de los Andes, the patron saint of Chile. Then he went to Hogar de Cristo where he visited the sick and the homeless, prayed at the tomb of Chilean priest founder of said Hogar de Cristo, Fr. Alberto Hurtado who was canonized later as saint. Afterwards, the Pope went to the Catholic University of Chile. Then back to the Nunciatura (his place of residence while in Chile) for lunch.
At 2:40 p.m. all foreign chiefs mission / charge d’affaires, a.i., and their ladies were all present at the Nunciatura to greet the Pope. The attire required - black dress for ladies with long sleeves and dark business suit for men.
Mrs. Arizala and I left our residence early arriving at the gate of the Nunciatura at 2:25 p.m. Some foreign ambassadors and their ladies arrived ahead of us. We were requested to wait outside. At 2:45 p.m. we were told to enter the Nunciatura premises. Once inside the living room of the Nunciatura, we were requested by the protocol officer to fall in line in pairs with our respective spouses. After waiting for 15 minutes the Holy Father appeared preceded by Cardinal Casaroli and the chief of protocol. The Papal Nuncio to Chile, Msgr. Angelo Sodano, who later on became a Cardinal and Vatican Secretary of State, made a brief opening Statement expressing the desire of various chiefs of mission and their ladies accredited to Chile to greet the Holy Father. Then the Holy Father wearing a white attire and white cap delivered a short speech thanking us for our presence and stating that his presence in Chile is a “pastoral visit”, a mission of peace, reconciliation and respect for human dignity. He stressed that these are also the missions of diplomats - peace, understanding and friendship among nations.
He cited as example, the avoidance of war between Chile and Argentina on its territorial dispute and the signing of a peace treaty and friendship between the two neighboring countries in South America. After his brief remarks, he gave his blessings to all of us and to our respective countries. Then one-by-one, we approached the Pope according to protocol or seniority at the post and shook / kissed his hand as sign of greeting. Mrs. Arizala and I were seventh in the line starting from the Vice Dean of the diplomatic corps - the ambassador of the sovereign order of Malta and his wife. When it was our turn to greet the Holy Father, the Nuncio - Msgr. Angelo Sdoano - announced to the Pope: “The Ambassador of the Philippines and his wife.” I held the hand of the Holy Father and told him: “Your Holiness, Greetings from the Philippines” followed by Mrs. Arizala. The Pope said to us in English: “Thank you and God Bless you.”
That encounter by us with the Holy Father was brief but to us it seemed eternity. Despite the crowd around us, it seemed only the Pope and us were having a dialogue “face-to-face” with a figure in his resplendent white attire and with clear, generous blue eyes and with a fatherly smile of humility, peace, tenderness and human kindness. As Mrs. Arizala and I stepped out of the room, one of the Papal Assistants, a Msgr. gave me a commemorative Papal bronze medal of the visit to Chile while Mrs. Arizala was given a rosary with white beads. We were also given photos of the Holy Father with his signature on them.
We, foreign diplomats and their ladies after greeting the Holy Father waited in the sprawling garden of the Nunciature for the him (Pope) to come out of the building. After a few minutes, we saw the Pope emerged from the main door of the Nunciatura and walked up to the gate crossing the garden where we were up to the main gate of the compound to ride in a Papal Mobile which will take him to his next appointment for that afternoon at the Economic Commission for Latin America, a United Nations regional organi or agency.
A huge crowd has gathered outside the Nunciature across the street mostly young people waving small Vatican flags or banners. The Holy Father paused for a moment, faced the cheering crowd with a smile and raised his two hands in greetings. The crowd shouted “Viva el Papa!” (Long live the Pope) as the Papal mobile speeded away towards the direction of his next appointment.
Little did I know at that time that years later, Pope John Paul ll would be beatified and the Papal Nuncio to Chile, Msgr. Angelo Sodano would become a Cardinal and be appointed the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
Now, my wife and I could say that a quarter of a century ago, we met a “Living Saint” in Chile during his pastoral visit to said country.