As requested, no bulletproof vehicles for Pope Francis
MANILA, Philippines—The vehicles, which Pope Francis will use during his apostolic visit to the Philippines next month, are not bulletproof and will make him “vulnerable, open and accessible.”
Pope Francis is also expected to pray over the mass grave of people who died during the passage of Super Typhoon Yolanda in Palo, Leyte.
In a media briefing Tuesday, Fr. David Concepcion, executive secretary of the committee on transportation for the papal visit, said the Holy Father would use two popemobiles to travel around Manila and Tacloban City during his visit from Jan. 15 to 19.
According to Concepcion, the popemobiles will not be enclosed, not bullet-proofed and will not be airconditioned, making Pope Francis not only visible to the public but also exposed to the elements.
He said authorities acknowledged that the vehicles’ design would pose a “security nightmare,” but the Pope himself requested the popemobiles’ features to highlight the Church’s relationship with the Catholic faithful and a symbol of his compassion toward the people.
“The Pope will be vulnerable during his visit. This also represents that vulnerability of the Church,” Concepcion said.
He declined to identify the maker of the vehicles, who he said asked not to be named.
The popemobile also represents the Church’s solidarity with the people as the Holy Father “will feel the heat that the crowds will feel. If it rains, he will also get wet.”
“He wants to get as close as possible to the people; he wants to interact with them. The popemobile’s design would allow the Pope to hear the people’s cheers and shoutouts during motorcades. This also shows that the Church listens,” Concepcion said.
“The popemobile also reflects the Church’s accessibility. He wants to be easily accessible to the people. The vehicles’ design will make it easier for the Pope to physically reach out to the people. You know he’s been known to make unscheduled stops to talk and mingle with the crowds,” he added.
Meanwhile, Msgr. Bernie Pantin, Palo Cathedral parish priest, said the Holy Father would go to the Palo Cathedral mass grave to pray in private after his meeting with the priests, religious, and laity who survived Yolanda.
The Pope will arrive around 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 17 at Tacloban Airport and will be welcomed by Church and government officials in a simple ceremony. He will then proceed to the sacristy built at the Tacloban Airport grounds, especially for the papal Mass.
After the Mass, the Pope will go to the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo for lunch, where he will be joined by 30 survivors of Yolanda as well as of the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that devastated Bohol and part of Cebu.
Fifteen people from Leyte will have lunch with the Pope, along with five from Borongan in Eastern Samar province, five from Calbayog in Samar province, and five from Tagbilaran in Bohol province, the epicenter of last year’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake. Yolanda claimed the lives of at least 6,300 people, while 222 people died during the quake.
The Pope will then bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo, where he will meet about 50 persons with disabilities, orphans and the elderly.
The center, which will have an orphanage, a home for the aged, and a dispensary, will be run and maintained by the Kkottoongnae Brothers and Sisters of Jesus, a Korean religious congregation “committed to witnessing God to the world and saving souls by practicing Jesus’ love.”
“We are indeed very grateful for this event. In spite of the very limited resources since Leyte has not yet fully recovered from the disaster…we’re trying our best to be make the papal visit meaningful and fruitful not only for our people but also for the Pope as well,” said Pantin.
“We are also praying that the faith, restraint and resiliency that our people showed in the face of so much suffering will once again prevail over the frenzy and excitement so that no untoward incident will happen,” he said.
“We also pray that the Pope’s lunch with the poor will become an encounter of faith for them and a challenge for all of us that we continue to do our best to be of service not only to the materially poor but even to the spiritually poor,” Pantin added.
According to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, there will be a lot of readings, songs and prayers, which will be in different Visayan dialects during liturgical celebrations in Tacloban.
Tagle said at the same press briefing that the T-shirt has become a strong communicator, especially among the youth, and encouraged the faithful to promote the Church’s advocacy against corruption as a means to recover the Filipinos’ dignity on the back of previous issues that have affected the government and society.
He urged the faithful to wear T-shirts carrying the message “Huwag kang magnakaw,” as inspired by the seventh commandment.
Tagle urged the public to wear the shirt or hang tarpaulins in schools, parishes and shrines.
“A group of young people wore that shirt during the Simbang Gabi; I asked them to stand so that people will see them. After the Mass, people were asking where they can buy the shirt,” Tagle said.
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