Papal caveat: It is not about me, focus on Jesus
MANILA, Philippines—Pope Francis wants his Philippine visit to focus on Jesus Christ, not himself, according to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
Speaking at a spiritual retreat for the working press that will cover next month’s papal visit, Tagle said he was at the Holy See last month as part of the preparation for the Pope’s visit on Jan. 16-19 and that he received instruction from the Pope.
“I hope I will not be the focus of the pastoral visit but let Jesus Christ be the focus,” Tagle quoted the Pope as saying.
The Manila prelate, who heads the organizing committee for the visit, urged journalists as well as volunteers working for the event to follow the Pope’s instruction. “The papal visit will be an occasion for us to turn our attention to Jesus,” he said.
Earlier, Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, head of the papal visit’s committee on information, said the visit would be “an encounter with God.”
“The Pope is the Vicar of Christ so meeting him is like coming face to face with God,” Vergara said, urging the media and volunteers to “spiritually prepare” for the event.
Papal fever has increased in the run-up to Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka on Jan. 12-15 and the Philippines, heightened by the increasing “rock-star” status the charismatic Pope has enjoyed since the start of his papacy in 2013.
The papal visit is a mission of “mercy and compassion,” Tagle said, especially since the Pope would like to console the victims of the major natural disasters in the Visayas last year.
The Pope will personally take his “mercy mission” to Tacloban City, where he will meet victims and survivors.
During the Mass that capped the retreat, Palo Archbishop John Du, whose ecclesiastical province covers Tacloban, joined Tagle as a cocelebrant. Tagle pointed the audience to Du, enjoining them to donate to the Leyte prelate “because he’s too shy.”
Earlier, Tagle urged Filipinos demanding that the Pope visit them to understand that because of his advanced age, the 77-year-old Francis could not add more to his already extensive itinerary.
First in 20 years
But the exhortation may not dampen Filipinos’ clamor to see Francis since it would be the first visit by a Pope in 20 years.
The last papal visit was in 1995 when Pope—now Saint—John Paul II came to the country for the World Youth Day. The closing Mass of World Youth Day saw at least 4 million people attending John Paul II’s Mass, the biggest crowd in history according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Pope Francis will meet leaders of the churches, religious orders and key organizations at Manila Cathedral. He will also go to the University of Santo Tomas, a pontifical institution that hosted the Ecumenical Youth Forum of the World Youth Day in 1995, to meet leaders of other religions and to give a special message to the youth.
“I hope the Holy Father will be inspired and learn from us, too. He will come not only as a teacher but also as someone in need of inspiration, so let’s inspire him,” Tagle said.
The Pope really admires the faith and resilience of the people, Tagle said in a previous statement.
“I think he will come to bring a message of solidarity and hope. But I’m also quite certain that he would want to imbibe, be edified and be inspired by the faith of the ordinary people,” he said.
Asian bishops will attend the Holy Father’s Mass with the clergy and religious at Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16, said Vergara.
“We know this is also, in terms of the globe, a regional celebration. So they will be coming and they will be part of the Manila Cathedral celebration,” he added.
“All dioceses will be represented in that Mass… It is upon the decision or process of each particular church (diocese), as we call it, to send their own representatives,” he added, saying that each diocese and prelature was asked to send 10 representative priests and five religious members of the clergy.
To be completely fair, the Pasig bishop shared that in his own diocese, as in other dioceses, these representatives were chosen by lottery.
According to Manila Cathedral’s Msgr. Nestor Cerbo, 1,500 slots have been allotted to bishops, priests and religious for the Eucharistic celebration with Pope Francis on the second day of his visit.
The remaining 500 slots will be for lay people needed for the liturgical celebration like the choir; the technical support staff for the sound system and the air-conditioning; members of the Presidential Security Group; the first-aid team; ushers; and selected members of the media.
Vergara said the central committee would try its best to put up facilities like video walls or LCD screens outside Manila Cathedral to accommodate the faithful who may still want to participate in the Eucharistic celebration.
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