Pope’s itinerary: ‘Our official joy begins now’
Pope Francis will arrive late afternoon of Jan. 15 and will host a luncheon for Supertyphoon “Yolanda” survivors in Tacloban City on Jan. 17. On Jan. 18, he will meet with religious leaders at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and hold a Mass at Manila’s Rizal Park, before flying back to the Vatican on Jan. 19.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Friday released Pope Francis’ official itinerary during his first visit to the country from Jan. 15 to 19, following his apostolic visit to Sri Lanka.
“Today, our official joy begins …. Pope Francis is bringing the joy of the Gospel personally to us on the five special days in January we have officially announced,” CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement.
“When Pope Francis comes, he will show us the face of God. When the Pope sees us Filipinos, may he see the living God in us,” Villegas added.
According to the itinerary provided by Church officials, the Pope’s plane will arrive at 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2015, at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, where the official welcome rites for the Holy Father will be held.
At 9 a.m. of the following day, a welcome ceremony will be held at Malacañang when the Pope pays a courtesy visit to President Aquino.
At 10:15 a.m., Pope Francis will have a meeting with officials and the diplomatic corps at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall in Malacañang.
At 11:15 a.m., the Pope will deliver the homily during a Mass with bishops, priests and members of the religious community at Manila Cathedral in Intramuros.
At 5:30 in the afternoon, he will meet with families at SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Pope will fly to Tacloban on Jan. 17 and will hold a Mass at the Tacloban international airport at 10 a.m., after which he will join survivors of Yolanda for lunch at the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo town. This will be followed by the blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor at 3 p.m.
Before he departs for Manila, Pope Francis will meet with priests, members of the religious community, seminarians and families of Yolanda survivors at the Cathedral of Palo at 3:30 p.m.
At 9:45 a.m. on Jan. 18, the Holy Father will have a brief meeting with religious leaders at UST in Manila. He will then meet with the youth at the UST sports field at 10:30 a.m. before holding a Mass at 3:30 p.m. at Manila’s Rizal Park.
Pope Francis will leave for Rome at 10 a.m. on Jan. 19 after a departure ceremony at the Presidential Pavilion of Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.
The Pope will be coming in from Colombo, where he will canonize Sri Lanka’s first saint, the Rev. Giuseppe Baz, a 17th-century missionary credited with reviving the Catholic faith in the country. This is Pope Francis’ second trip to Asia, following his August pilgrimage to South Korea.
All about security
About 95 percent of the government’s preparations for the papal visit are all about security, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said during a press briefing at the Archdiocese of Manila.
But Ochoa, who chairs the national organizing committee for the visit, declined to say whether the Pope would travel on a bulletproof vehicle or an open Popemobile when he goes around Manila and Tacloban.
“It’s a matter of security, so let’s not get into details. We want to make sure the Pope is safe,” Ochoa said, adding that the government was also preparing for “surprises” the Pope might pull off.
‘Pope of surprises’
Pope Francis has become known as the “Pope of surprises,” sometimes sneaking out of the Vatican at night to visit and talk to the poor, and to give them food.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle similarly declined to divulge details on the Pope’s accommodations.
“Again, [it’s a matter of] security. Basta may matutulugan siya (He’ll definitely have a place to sleep),” Tagle said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
Asked why the Pope will be spending more time in Manila than in Tacloban when the papal visit was meant to comfort Yolanda survivors, the Church official said: “In this visit, we believe symbolism matters a lot. The brief time he will be in Tacloban will mean more in terms of making the survivors feel his love.”
Special task force
A special task force, “Papal Visit 2015,” led by Philippine National Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina will be in charge of security arrangements for the papal visit.
“We will conduct extensive security coverage and other public safety services in all areas of engagements and adjacent areas during the papal visit. It is imperative that the security and safety of the Pope be given utmost priority,” according to PNP Director General Alan Purisima, a member of the multiagency Papal Visit National Organizing Committee overseeing security arrangements for the event.
These include public safety assistance, police services for crowd control, vehicular and pedestrian traffic direction and routes, parking and venue security.
The PNP will also provide operational support for the Presidential Security Group, which is in charge of close-in security and safety services for Pope Francis and the papal entourage. With a report from Julie M. Aurelio
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