MORONG, Bataan — The country’s first shrine of the Blessed Pope John Paul II was inaugurated this week at the former home of thousands of Indo-Chinese refugees in this town.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Diocese of Balanga officiated the blessing of the center. The diocese, the Morong parish, led by Fr. Fernando Loreto with some sponsors, cooperated with BTPI in building the shrine.
Rep. Imelda R. Marcos, Rep. Herminia Roman of Bataan, Chairman Felicito Payumo of the Bases Conversion Development
Authority, Dinalupihan Mayor Joel Payumo, Samal Mayor Gene dela Fuente and some representatives of government agencies attended the inauguration.
The memorial shrine for the Blessed Pope John Paul II stands some 30 meters away from the temporary papal stage that the late Polish pontiff used on February 21, 1981.
At the shrine is the almost life-size image of the newly-beatified Pope on board a banca with a family of refugees.
At the foreground are some lush trees that used to dominate the 365-hectare former home of Aeta natives built into the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) and turned into the present Bataan Technology Park, Inc.
Mrs. Marcos said the late pope in his first visit in the Philippines asked her to give him a chance to hold mass for the refugees upon learning of the then PRPC.
Marcos, then Minister of Human Settlements, in cooperation with the United States government and the United Nations Commission on Refugees, built the center that became temporary home to 400,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia between 1980 and 1994.
Thousands of people of diverse cultures and religion attended the mass for the “boat people”.
“You see Mrs. Marcos, if we are believers we are one,” she quoted the late pope as telling her after the mass in February 21, 1981.
Marcos said the late pope has become a good example for all mankind. She believes the newly-beatified pope will become a saint.
“By making this shrine a reality is already one of his miracles,” she said.