A series of events celebrating Catholic faith awaits Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines this January, exactly twenty years after the last Pope visited the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia.
Conferences, vigils, and other gatherings in various parts of the country led by top Church leaders will be held simultaneously during the Papal Visit, which will happen on January 15 to 19. January 15 marks the culmination of the five-day festival World Youth Day in 1995 when the late Pope John Paul II last visited the Philippines.
Excited is a mild way to describe the Filipinos’ anticipation to the Pope Francis’ coming to the Philippines. As early as September, Church leaders called on the people to have their selfies with the Pope’s life-size standees distributed all over the country as part of the preparations. Christians and non-Christians alike seized chance to have their selfies taken with the Pope known for its radical and bold stance on marriage, homosexuality and capitalism, even war and atheism.
The Pope is set to spend his time in Tacloban City, which was severely damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda last year. He is also set to visit the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest Catholic school in Asia and the only pontifical university in the Philippines, as his last stop.
And to prepare for the Pope’s coming, the Thomasian community has prepared several build-up activities to heighten the public’s spirits. This included the UST Theological Society’s gathering of prayer and reflection entitled “A Nation of Mercy and Compassion” held last November 6 to jumpstart the preparations for the Papal Visit.
“It is important that we put highlight to our spiritual preparation so that whatever message we may receive from this visit we may genuinely put it in our minds and in our hearts,” said Brother Dale Dakila, president of the Theological Society.
Filipinos from all walks of life are definitely looking forward to His Holiness’ visit, and construction worker and barangay (village) councilor Rolando Forte is one of them. A devout Catholic himself, Rolando intends to attend the Pope’s masses if the circumstance permits him.
“If there’s a chance, why not? It would be a great honor to see the Pope—I’d be more lucky if I’d get his blessing,” he said. “This is a great chance for us Filipino Christians to be united, especially in our faith in Jesus Christ.” As for Brother Dale, he believes that the Pope’s visit is a manifestation of his love to his flock and his way to embrace the Filipino people—who, in the midst of unimaginable trials, remained committed to their faith.
“Pope Francis wants to encounter these people, to show the Filipinos the message of hope – the message of Christ Himself,” he told the Filipino Life. “He wants us to see Christ in our sufferings, to see Christ in our hope, and that in this journey of seeing Christ he is there to be with us.”
He then hopes that in January, the Visit would be full of joy and vigor to celebrate the Filipino people’s faith in Jesus Christ.