Celebrating Pope Francis’ 1st Simbang Gabi with Fr. Ricky Gente and Pinoy community in Rome, Italy

Pope Francis Simbang Gabi
Fr. Ricky Gente greets Pope Francis at the Simbang Gabi at St. Peter’s Basilica. Credits to Ric Rosales via Fr. Ricky Gente Facebook.

The historic first-ever Novena Mass or “Simbang Gabi” celebrated by Pope Francis for the Filipino Catholic community in Rome was observed by the whole world as the proceedings was streamed live – and all eyes were on Fr. Ricky Gente as he addressed the church leader at the end of the mass.

On live television and internet streaming, Filipino priest Fr. Ricky Gente, on behalf of the Filipino community, thanked Pope Francis for leading the Simbang Gabi Holy Mass where about 7,500 churchgoers in a full capacity St. Peter’s Basilica witnessed the celebration of the Christian faith.

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Fr. Ricky Gente, speaking in Italian, presented himself and the Filipino community as migrants living under the love of God.

In his address that lasted about four minutes, the Scalabrinian missionary priest spoke about the value of the Simbang Gabi as the occasion for the Filipino people to unite in prayer in the midst of challenges.

The chaplain of the Filipinos in Rome recalled how Pope Francis referred to Filipina women are “smugglers of the faith” and then affirmed that migrants do carry their faith like a torch wherever they went. Fr. Gente said Filipinos continue to be “a happy and smiling people because the flame of faith continue to burn intensely in our hearts.”

Fr. Ricky Gente delivering a message from the Filipino faithful in Rome to Pope Francis. Screengrab by Exfelicos Bolico.

Fr. Gente also noted how European missionaries brought the Christian faith to the Philippines 500 years ago and how the Filipinos are now in Europe, and have since become ardent disciples of the church. The Philippine church is marking the 500-year anniversary of the first baptism in April 2021 along with other related events organized by the National Quincentennial Committee.

Fr. Ricky Gente ended his address speaking in Filipino and declaring, “Maraming salamat po Santo Padre! Mabuhay ang Pilipino!” (Long live the Pope! Long Live the Filipino!)

Good News Pilipinas interviewed Fr. Ricky Gente, of the Filipino Chaplaincy in Rome which cares for about 47,000 Filipinos, about the historic celebration on the fourth year of the Simbang Gabi celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 15, 2019.

Fr. Ricky expressed gratitude to Filipino layworkers who were key to the organizing of the Simbang Gabi and thanked the Pope for showing the unique Filipino Christmas tradition to the rest of the world.

“Salamat po… salamat sa ating mga Pinoy lalo na sa ating mga layworkers na siya frontline para sa Simbang Gabi kasama ang Papa.

“Salamat sa unique contribution ng mga Pinoy sa pananampalataya, ang Simbang Gabi.

“Salamat sa papa dahil sa kanya naisawalat nya ang bukod tanging Simbang Gabi sa mundo at hindi lang para sa mga Pilipino, na dapat tularan.”

About 7,500 Filipinos and churchgoers witnessed the Simbang Gabi celebrated by Pope Francis at the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Screengrab of Vatican News stream.

The Filipino chaplain shared how he will celebrate December 25 with the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are alone and have nowhere to go on Christmas.

“Ang mga OFWs nating nag-iisa at walang mapupuntahan matapos ang misa ay maaring manatili at makisaya at makipagdiwang sa Pasko… dahil kami sa simbahan ay nag-offer ng lunch…eat all you can plus karaoke kung gusto nilang magsaya…. pero ito ay sa lahat na magsimba sa araw ng pasko ito ay walang bayad po…”

The Parol, a Filipino Christmas lantern, hangs at the Santa Pudenziana Basilica, the official church of Filipinos in Rome. Photo from Josephine Valencia via Fr. Ricky Gente Facebook.

Fr. Gente serves as the head chaplain for 63 chapel communities, grouped in five clusters, that are in turn led by their respective Chapel President or Coordinators with their Spiritual Director Priest. He runs the chaplaincy as its pastor and gathers the coordinators monthly, and both the coordinators and priests in a yearly Congress.

The remaining Simbang Gabi novena masses continue to be held at the Santa Pudenziana Basilica, the 4th century structure designated as the official church of the Filipinos by then Pope and now St. John Paul II.

WATCH Fr. Ricky Gente address Pope Francis in this video and SEND words of encouragement to the Filipino faithful in Rome!

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Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.