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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pope Taking Philippines by Storm

Pope Francis is literally taking the Philippines by storm.
Fifteen days into the new year, Pope Francis, the person next to Christ in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, is arriving at dusk today  after a seven-hour flight from Sri Lanka for a four-day pastoral visit to mingle and comfort his flock wracked by conflict, tragedy, and calamity and bring Christ’s blessing of hope, peace, mercy, and compassion.
At least 10 Catholic prelates will welcome Pope Francis, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said. Among them is CBCP vice president Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao.
But not even the threat of a potential storm (see weather story on this spread) raining on the Pontiff’s visit in Tacloban City could dampen the enthusiasm and excitement of people wanting to see him in person, or just catch a glimpse of His Holiness.
Francis, the 266th successor of Peter, is the third Pontiff to visit the Philippines – the only Catholic nation in Asia – in 20 years as the church celebrates the “Year of the Poor.”
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay called on Filipinos to be inspired by Pope Francis’ compassion for the poor.
The Vice President expressed hope Filipinos “will heed the Pope’s call for renewing our commitment to the universal values of love and compassion especially for the poor and downtrodden.”
“To all Filipinos, it is my hope that we will be inspired by the living example of the Pope who has willingly connected with the people to get across Christ’s message of love and charity,” Binay said in a statement.
Upon setting foot on Philippine soil, two abandoned children – Lanie Ortillo and Mark Angelo Babero – will have the distinct privilege to meet the charismatic leader of the 1.2-billion Catholics around the world and offer him a welcome garland.
Being the head of the Vatican State and Bishop of Rome , government officials led by President Aquino and church officials led by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle will be on hand to welcome the Holy Father – the ‘people’s Pope’ at the Villamor Airbase.
After arrival honors, the Holy Father will board his open popemobile for a motorcade to the welcome cheers of Filipinos excited to see in person the Vicar of Christ who, since assuming the papacy on March 13, 2013, has stirred the placid waters of tradition  in the Vatican toward reform which he insists is rooted in the Bible.
The papal delegation will be composed of at least 30 individuals namely – Fernando Filoni (prefect propaganda fide); Cardinal Robert Sarah (prefect of congregation of divine worship and the sacraments); and Fr. Federico Lombardi (papal spokesman), among others.
According to a source, the papal delegation will stay at the Hotel Benilde near De La Salle University in Manila, while the Holy Father will stay at the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue. 

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will strictly enforce the three nautical mile radius no-fly zone over areas of engagement of Pope Francis during his four-day visit in the country, a military spokesman said.
Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said that the PAF has committed its air assets to provide “air defense support” as part of security preparations laid down by the military for the papal visit.
Should the Pope break protocol, the government is ready with the contingency measures to protect him.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said authorities recognize Pope Francis as “a pope of surprises” and will constantly improve security measures while he’s in the country.
“Pope Francis will be with us to bring God’s love and mercy. His presence is God’s blessing. His words are God’s comfort.  His actions are God’s saving works,” Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos said. Bishop Santos chairs the Committee on Transportation of the papal visit.
“Pope Francis reminds us that we are not alone in our predicaments.  We are not abandoned in our sufferings.  We are not forgotten during our misfortunes. God is with us in these moments. God has strengthened us and we can stand up again. Pope Francis gives us this hope. He assures us of God’s help. God will heal us and our land,” the prelate added.
For months, devout Catholics in Tacloban have been prepping for the Pope’s arrival, honored to host the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and a symbol of hope for many.
More than a year ago, this city was inundated by super-typhoon Yolanda’s storm surge, shattering many lives, destroyed homes and building, left the city’s economy in ruin but could not break the faith of the predominantly Catholic population here.
When typhoon ‘Yolanda’ brought Tacloban to its knees with death and devastation  that scarred the survivors, the  Holy Father was moved, and like a shepherd wanting to calm his beleaguered flock put the Philippines in his travel list and assures every Filipino he meets in the Vatican that he will be coming in January.
Inspirational speaker Michael Lobrin, during a recollection in preparation for the pope’s visit, said the main source of our excitement over the Pope’s coming is the chance to see Christ.
“The Pope is not the big star.  The big star is Jesus Christ.  Once the Pope comes and you do not see Jesus in him, the papal visit will not be successful.  It is the Pope himself who asked for his visit to be simple and pastoral,” Lobrin said.
“Pope Francis teaches us the act of humility.  We have to understand that all our life, our success or riches are just gifts from God and are temporary.  God has allowed us to gain these things out of mercy and compassion,” he added.
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