Pope may drop by PH in August, says CBCP official
MANILA, Philippines — Pope Francis may drop by the Philippines in August to visit the victims of supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan), which ravaged a large swathe of the Visayas late last year, according to an official of a Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) office.
Should it push through, the government must speed up rehabilitation programs in the places devastated by Yolanda as the papal visit would again put the Philippines in a global spotlight, remarked Fr. Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth and the head of the Filipino delegation to the upcoming 6th Asian Youth Day (AYD).
“Perhaps, the presence of the Pope can pressure the government and many other sectors to really rise up to the demands and responsibilities to provide change or uplift the condition of the survivors,” said Garganta.
Talks about the papal visit to Eastern Visayas circulating among the clergy was confirmed by the Pope’s envoy, Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum during his trip to Leyte late last January.
Sarah announced the pontiff’s intention to visit typhoon-stricken areas in the region during a mass he celebrated in a church in Palo, one of the worst-hit localities, said the CBCP through its official news service CBCP News.
It noted that the planned papal visit would come after the 6th AYD to be held in South Korea five months from now.
Garganta stressed that the government would not want to be “placed in a difficult situation” if the Pope himself would see the snail-paced rehabilitation efforts in the places hit by the deadly typhoon, which killed more than 6,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of families homeless.
Many, particularly those greatly affected by Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to ever hit the land, have criticized the government and voiced frustration over its delayed post-disaster response.
Last week, Mr. Aquino apologized for the government’s shortcomings to a student who has been studying in Manila but hailed from Tacloban City, among the areas hardest hit by the supertyphoon.
The President admitted that post-disaster response could have been faster but pointed to the magnitude of the typhoon, which prevented the government from providing immediate assistance to disaster victims.
“The Pope’s visit would be a blessing to challenge the government and our leaders because the presence of international media may push people to do positive change to the lives of the victims of the typhoon,” added Garganta.
The priest added that Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines would be a “real blessing” for Filipinos.
“We can only hope but if it happens, it will be a blessing for our people to see the Vicar of Christ, especially those who are still in pain and sorrow because of the typhoon and because not much improvement has taken place since the calamity struck,” he pointed out.
The last pope to visit the Philippines was Blessed John Paul II. In his second and last visit, John Paul II celebrated the closing mass of the 1995 World Youth Day in Manila, which was touted as the largest papal gathering in Roman Catholic history.
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