By the time this issue goes off the press, Pope Francis, the leader of the more than 1 billion Roman Catholics, shall have landed in the Philippines for his visit in the predominantly Catholic country and becomes the third Pontiff to land in Manila.
Filipinos have been looking forward to the Pope’s visit with great anticipation since he announced last year that he will visit the Philippines. Earlier in November of 2014, as he presided over the blessing of a mosaic of San Pedro Calungsod installed at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, he took time out to speak of the suffering people of the Philippines who had just been hit by super-typhoon “Yolanda.” Later, he declared he wanted to meet with the victims. That was a clear declaration of oneness with the Filipino people in their time of suffering.
The Pope’s words undoubtedly opened an avalanche of sympathy and support from people all over the world. Several governments like that of the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain, quickly sent medical, rescue and engineering teams along with plane-loads of relief goods. There were also financial donations in the millions of dollars for the relief and rehabilation of the destroyed houses and buildings. The United Nations and other agencies all sent help of one kind or another to the people in the Visayas who had lost members of their families, their homes, their livelihoods, to Yolanda, the strongest typhoon ever to hit land.
The visit of Pope Francis coincides with the 20th anniversary of the celebration of World Youth Day in Manila led by then Pope, now Saint John Paul II. For Pope Francis, it will have the added significance as he will be joining the victims of typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte where he will also celebrate Mass, expressing his solidarity with them, and praying with them.
Philippine Catholic Church leaders headed by Bishop Socrates Villegas of the Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and the faithful consider Pope Francis’ visit a blessing and thus the entire country moved heaven and earth to ensure that the Pontiff will be safe and will be met by a sea of hospitable Filipinos professing faith in the God and the Church. Welcome to the Philippines, Pope Francis! Viva il Papa!