Excitement builds ahead of Pope Francis’ PH visit
MANILA, Philippines—Excitement is building in the Philippines ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Asia’s largest Roman Catholic country later this week.
Pope Francis will arrive in Manila on Thursday following a visit Sri Lanka.
Images of a smiling pontiff can be seen in welcome billboards in and around the Philippine capital.
The Pope’s face beams in commemorative stamps, biscuits, coins and other religious mementoes.
One shop sells Pope Francis dolls for about 22 US dollars each, complete with a certificate of authenticity.
Life-size cutouts of the pope are also on display outside churches, where devotees are given a chance to snap selfies or group photographs.
Despite the the fevered excitement among Filipino catholics, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, recalled a recent conversation he had with Pope Francis, in which the pope said he wanted the upcoming pastoral visit to focus not on himself, but on Jesus.
Filipinos have welcomed two other popes, including the late John Paul II who visited twice, with rock-star intensity since the 1970’s.
But Pope Francis’ January 15-19 trip, which will revolve around the theme “mercy and compassion,” promises to be as huge or larger, coming after a number of deadly catastrophes, including Typhoon Haiyan.
A daylong visit to eastern Leyte province, where Haiyan killed thousands and levelled entire villages fourteen months ago will be a highlight of Francis’ trip.
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