Mabuhay, Pope Francis!
VILLAMOR AIRBASE, Philippines – Pope Francis is set to arrive in Manila at 5:45 pm on Thursday, January 15, for a 5-day trip that is expected to attract a world-record papal crowd.
The core of the papal visit is Francis' January 17 meetings with survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan ), which devastated the Visayas region in November 2013. “The primary reason for the papal visit is really to console the victims of Typhoon Yolanda,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villages earlier said.
In Leyte, he is expected to release an encyclical letter on climate change.
A tropical storm is forecast to hit the region, however, but Palo Archdiocese spokesman Fr Chris Militante said Catholics in Leyte remain in high spirits as they pray the Oratio Imperata, a prayer to avert disasters.
In Metro Manila, Francis is scheduled to meet with President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, January 16, and on the same day, say Mass at the Manila Cathedral and meet with Filipino families at the Mall of Asia. On Saturday, January 17, he will depart for Tacloban and Palo, Leyte.
Sunday, January 18, will be highlighted by an audience with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas and a concluding Mass at the Luneta Park in Manila, which is expected to draw more than the 5-million crowd that attended the last papal visit there in 1995. (READ: Metro Manila routes, rules for #PopeFrancisPH)
In the eyes of the Filipino
The 78-year-old Argentine pontiff shares many things in common with Filipinos. He’s the son of migrants, he grew up in a largely Catholic country with many poor families, he lived under a dictatorship, and he led a local Church denounced for meddling in politics. (READ: Pope Francis in the eyes of the Filipino)
If Pope John Paul II “showed the heart of the Church,” and Pope Benedict XVI “showed [its] mind and reason,” Pope Francis combines both, said Cardinal Orlando Quevedo. “He’s the combination of heart and mind. It’s something that people can understand easily,” Quevedo, Mindanao’s first Cardinal, told Rappler. (READ: What disturbs me most about this Pope)
As a traveler, he's proven to be a maverick.
In his first 20 months as head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Francis chose to visit 3 Muslim-majority nations, including a relatively obscure European state, Latin America, the Middle East, and an Asian country technically still at war with its neighbor.
The Argentine Jesuit’s first 6 overseas trips reflect not just Francis’ distinction as the first pope from the developing world, but also a constant theme of his papacy: reaching out to the world’s “peripheries” or “fringes,” meaning his favorite type of people: the poor and the vulnerable. (READ: Pope of the fringes: Francis as pilgrim-diplomat)
The pontiff may be 78 but he's also one of the world’s most cyber-savvy leaders, and he has ignited a social media frenzy here. Thousands of Filipinos have sent tweets to his official @Pontifex Twitter account and sent photos to Rappler for its #ShowThePope page. One netizen posted a photo of the Tacloban public market, which he wants to show the Pope. Another posted a photo of the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta, where the Pope will say his concluding Mass on January 18.
The rock-star status of the Pope in the Philippines has prompted the government to put up its most elaborate security arrangement for a visiting VIP in recent years.
Some 25,000 policemen will be deployed in Metro Manila and Leyte, with over 7,000 soldiers to serve as support. In total, some 40,000 security personnel are being deployed to secure the Pope. (READ: Devil in the details: Protecting Pope Francis in PH visit)
The former chief of staff of the Armed Forces, retired General Emmanuel Bautista, is the overall supervisor of all security preparations for the Pope.