There was a surprising little exhibit this week at Gateway Mall in Quezon City. The lobby hosting the show is not a particularly impressive space; unlike, say, the foyer of Mall of Asia in Pasay City, the area of the exhibit is less of an intentionally defined architectural feature and more of an accidentally wide opening that the building’s architects found themselves creating when they set the structure’s width. What the floor space lacks in definition, it makes up for in subtle decoration—the tiles possess a luxuriant specular sheen that sets itself apart from the usually drab flooring of less prestigious malls.

The building’s upscale accents are still not enough, however, to entirely conceal the occasion’s dissonance. There on display at the lobby were relics of soon-to-be-canonized Pope John Paul II, surrounded by writeups on his life and photographs of his visits to the Philippines. There were even kneelers, because maybe some of the faithful would be so touched by the items on display that they would be moved to pray right there, in front of all the curious and unexpecting mall-goers, to venerate the artifacts of the beloved pope. I was reminded of Pharisees beating their chests in the temple of Jerusalem, and I just hovered at the fringes of the exhibit, content with perusing the distinctly aged photos.

Pope John Paul II relics exhibit at Gateway Mall

I’m still not completely comfortable with Mass being held in commercial centers—I have questions of sincerity and ‘quality’—what more with this exhibit of revered relics in what is perhaps the foot-traffic epicenter of the metropolis. Thankfully the photos on display, as if they heard my concerns, assured me that there is a rather important historical basis for the venue of the exhibit.

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