Gov’t looks to the past to bolster papal security
MANILA, Philippines–The lone papal souvenir on display at the Presidential Museum and Library in Malacañang is the guest book bearing the signature of now St. John Paul II when he first visited the Philippines in 1981.
But also kept in the archives are a plastic replica of the coat of arms of Blessed Paul VI, who was attacked by a Bolivian assassin at the Manila airport tarmac in 1970, and a copy of Ferdinand Marcos’ diary claiming credit for saving the Pope’s life.
The incident was among the “relevant antecedents” security officials have considered in preparing for next week’s visit of Pope Francis.
“There was an appreciation of all the dangers that need to be avoided,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters, citing other incidents such as the Ultra stampede in 2006 and the “crowd surge” that cut short the Mass during the Feast of the Black Nazarene last year.
President Aquino and his Cabinet met Thursday with Catholic Church officials led by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, to firm up preparations for the papal visit.
The group was aware of what happened on Nov. 27 nearly 45 years ago when Paul was stabbed twice by a Bolivian painter, Benjamin Mendoza, who was disguised as a priest. The Pope had just alighted from an Alitalia plane and was greeting the huge crowd at the airport.
Marcos claims credit
Then President Marcos later claimed he saved the life of Paul, known as the “Pilgrim Pope.”
In his version of the “eventful day,” Marcos claimed he “parried the hand of Mendoza which had lunged toward the Pope, with my left hand, and hit the arm with a karate right hand chop.”
“I feel that I have been an instrument of God in saving the life of the Pope,” Marcos wrote in the Nov. 27 entry in his diary.–With a report from Cynthia D. Balana
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