Bishop Vicente Navarra yesterday inaugurated the John Paul II museum at the John Paul II tower at the Bacolod reclamation area. It was a low-key but historically important event that brought to its fold the two top officials of the province – Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and City Mayor Evelio Leonardia.
For Bishop Navarra, he recalled the 1981 visit here of Pope John Paul II, the first pope ever to have visited the province. And, despite the passage of 30 years, that still reverberates in the minds of most Negrenses, those who attended, and the present generation.
For Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr., he remembered it because he was also there. And, he pointed out that six years after, when Pope John Paul II visited Manila for the Word Youth Day, there were four million at the Luneta and yet there was no single crime reported.
That he said, simply upheld the important lesson – that we can transcend our personal loyalties and remain united for a common goal.
That he pointed out that the 200 or more daily visitors to the tower, mentioned earlier by San Sebastian Cathedral rector Fr. Felix Pasquin, will certainly develop into a bigger volume of visitors to the “shrine” when Pope John Paul is blessed this May by Pope Benedict XVI.
For Mayor Leonardia, this visit was doubly significant because he was at the time the tourism officer of Negros Occidental and found himself electrified by the Supreme Pontiff’s penetrating gaze and extraordinary charisma.
And he topped his speech by turning over to the museum his treasured press ID card and his tourism identification card that he had used during the visit.
All the three speakers also hailed Atty. Sammy Palanca of BREDCO for taking time out to construct the seven-storey tower complete with its own as generator and water pump to honor the memory of the late John Paul II whom Bishop Antonio Y. Fortich had invited to the province.
While all remembered the late Pope, all remembered Msgr. Fortich, (commander Tony), and his own charismatic leadership.
But the more significant mention by Navarra was that the words of the supreme Pontiff for the sugar leaders and the workingmen will remain – to haunt or to bound up our spirits depending on whether we heeded what they taught us.
After the brief inauguration and blessing of the museum the small crowd of prominent Catholics were feted at breakfast at the second floor of the eight-storey building.
Later, Bishop Navarra launched the Pilgrimage for Life with Pope John Paul II.
Fr. Felix Pasquin, the San Sebastian rector, also distributed to the faithful the Prayer for healing during the pilgrimage which Bishop Navarra had approved.*
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