MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may just be on Pope Francis’ travel itinerary in 2016, the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said on Thursday.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, CBCP president, said Church officials were hoping Pope Francis would be able to visit in January 2016 after the Vatican asked that the date for a major Church event be moved to accommodate the Holy Father’s schedule.
Palma said Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee on the International Eucharistic Congress, asked that the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) scheduled to be held in Cebu City on May 23-29, 2016, be moved to another date.
“Two weeks ago, we received a letter from Archbishop Marini asking if we could move the event to a second preferred date because the Pope had another schedule in May,” said Palma in a report on the CBCP website.
“We told them that January was fine because our suggestion was to make the Pope’s visit to the Philippines a priority,” he said.
The IEC would now be held four months earlier, on January 25-31, Palma said. He urged the faithful to pray the papal visit would push through.
“We know that the Pope continues to inspire us and his visit will have an enormous impact on our faith and our Christian life,” he said.
Held every four years, the International Eucharistic Congress 2016 in Cebu is the 51st gathering that will have for its theme, “Christ in You: Our Hope of Glory.”
The event is expected to draw thousands of participants – the laity and Church officials – from all over the world.
The last time the Philippines was visited by a pope was in January 1995 when the late Pope John Paul II attended World Youth Day celebrations in Manila.
During the event’s closing Mass, at least four million Catholics flocked to Rizal Park, making it the biggest crowd to attend a papal event in history.