‘We are all hosts,’ Roxas says as Pope Francis’ PH visit nears
MANILA, Philippines—As the Philippines gets ready for the arrival of Pope Francis, the government on Wednesday said that all the Filipinos are hosts in the papal visit.
Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said at a press briefing that all Filipinos will welcome Pope Francis as he embarks on a five-day visit to the country.
“We are all hosts, collectively as a nation,” said Roxas who took pointers from the previous visit of then pope and now Saint John Paul II for the 1995 World Youth Day. “As a host, we have the responsibility to maintain the solemnity and the peace of the visit.”
Pope Francis will arrive on Thursday for his pastoral and state visit to the country making stops in Manila and Tacloban.
His Holiness will also celebrate a meeting with Filipino families at the Mall of Asia Arena and hold mass at the Quirino Grand Stand that is expected to draw six million people.
Roxas said that Filipinos should look after one another especially on January 18 when Pope Francis will hold the Holy Eucharist.
“We are our brother’s keeper. If we see that someone needs help, we should immediately act,” Roxas said. “Also, be vigilant.”
No airlift for Pope
Unlike Pope John Paul II who had to be airlifted for his mass in 1995 because of the throngs of people eager to see him, Pope Francis would just be driven to the Quirino Grand Stand.
Roxas said that Roxas Boulevard, T.M Kalaw, Maria Orosa will be free of people so that there will be easier access in case of emergencies.
He said that it was also the wish of Pope Francis that he be allowed to roam around Luneta and interact with the people.
Grids will be strategically placed in Rizal Park with grid having smaller grids inside that will house the worshippers.
Each sub-grid will be 40 meters by 40 meters with approximately three to four people inside a 1 square meter area.
“We are hoping that the roads would be cleared of people, and it is not just for the safety of Pope Francis but he likes to roam around and interact with the people,” Roxas said.
There will be a walkway for Pope Francis in front of the Quirino Grand Stand that will cut across the greenery of Rizal Park in a U-shape.
Rizal Park, and its surrounding areas, will be closed to the public starting 8 p.m. on Saturday as security officials would clear the area.
At 6 a.m., people will be allowed to come to Rizal Park through Maria Orosa Street.
Security and celebration
Police Director Carmelo Valmoria of the National Capital Region Police Office said that 30 walkthrough scanners will be placed along Maria Orosa, the only entrance towards Rizal Park.
Roxas added that there will be 30 LED screens, with dimensions of 20 feet by 7 feet, scattered around Rizal Park for those who cannot see Pope Francis at the Quirino Grand Stand.
From 11 p.m. of Tuesday to around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III personally inspected the general areas of the Apostolic Nunciature, where Pope Francis would stay during the duration of the visit.
Roxas said Aquino traversed the route that Pope Francis will take where he saw a police officer stationed a meter away from each other.
“PNoy personally inspected the Quirino station of the LRT (Light Railway Transit) because that is where the security that would overlook the Apostolic Nunciature would be placed,” Roxas said.
When Saint Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1995, authorities did not expect the surge of people that rushed to the Popemobile that resulted in several injuries in the crowd.
Police Director Ricardo Marquez, Director of Operations, said allowing people to have their own space along Roxas Boulevard would be beneficial as this would probably compel the crowd to behave better.
“If we give people portion of the road, they would be more behaved (than) if we don’t give them the space,” Marquez said.
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