MANILA, Philippines—A delegation of Vatican officials is arriving in September to inspect the venue in Cebu for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in 2016, which Church officials hope would be attended by no less than Pope Francis.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said a 15-man Vatican delegation led by Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee on the IEC, was scheduled to arrive in Cebu City on Sept. 5, according to a report on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines news website.
Palma said Marini, who used to be seen frequently at the side of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI when he served as the master of papal liturgical celebrations, wanted to go to Cebu to inspect the preparations for the international gathering.
“They will stay in Cebu until Sept. 10. Aside from the ocular inspection, they will give suggestions and we would expect a more meaningful and fruitful celebration,” Palma said.
“We appreciate the assistance given to us by the committee in Rome and we feel that it’s a good privilege to host this event,” he said.
Palma said some of the scheduled activities might be held at the Waterfront Hotel and Cebu International Convention Center.
He said the archdiocese is still hoping that Pope Francis would be able to visit the Philippines for the IEC, which will be held from Jan. 25 to 31, 2016.
The gathering was originally scheduled for May 2016 but the Vatican requested that it be moved to January the same year because of the pope’s prior engagements in May, Palma said.
“We told them that January is fine because our suggestion was to make the pope’s visit to the Philippines a priority,” Palma said.
He urged Filipinos to continue to pray that Pope Francis would be able to visit the country. The last papal visit to the country happened in January 1995 when Pope John Paul II attended the World Youth Day in Manila.
“We know that the pope continues to inspire us and his visit will have an enormous impact on our faith and our Christian life,” Palma said.
He said the decision on whether the papal trip would push through could be announced a year before the international meeting.
Palma also said the Vatican delegation will travel to Manila to meet with Filipino theologians who are involved in the preparations of the IEC.