Villa, 73, received the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice, the highest recognition given by the Vatican to lay people.
“My ambition to become an actress is because of a mission from God. All the things I’m doing in showbiz is with a mission,” Villa told church-run Radio Veritas in an interview on Friday.
“I think, I am just an instrument of God’s grace to people; by being nice to people, giving a smile at them, you’re giving them hope,” she added.
The actress, whose showbiz career spans five decades, received the award from Pope Francis in a ceremony held on Thursday at the San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish, Tandang Sora, Quezon City. The conferment ceremony was headed by Novaliches Bishop Roberto Gaa.
“The papal award is a symbol of service to the church with a huge responsibility. They are shining examples of how a Christian should live,” Gaa said during the event attended by Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Antonio Tobias, Fr. Niño Etulle, parish priest of the San Lorenzo, and other priests from San Isidro Vicariate.
The conferment was made possible through the recommendation made by Bishop Tobias who nominated Villa and six others in June 2019. Villa is the second showbiz personality to have been granted the same papal award after comedienne AiAi delas Alas received the distinction in 2016.
The medal for Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, which means For Church and Pope in Latin, was originally used to commemorate Pope Leo XIII’s golden sacerdotal jubilee and was originally bestowed on those men and women who had aided and promoted the jubilee. In 1898, it became a permanent papal distinction.
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