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Aquino orders gov’t agencies to ensure success of papal visit


(Updated 8:07 a.m., July 30) President Benigno Aquino III is tapping the entire bureaucracy to make sure Pope Francis' scheduled visit to the country pushes through in January without any hitch, Malacañang said Tuesday.
 
"President Aquino is calling on all concerned government offices and the citizenry to work closely with the papal visit committee in ensuring the success of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit," Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
 
Coloma, co-chairperson of the information and media committe for the Papal visit, added that the President had designated Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. as the government’s point person for the event.
 
"Filipinos will most certainly accord to Pope Francis the warmth of their hospitality and manifest the fervor of their faith as they welcome the first Pontiff from South America," Coloma said.
 
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle earlier announced that Pope Francis is going to visit the Philippines, a predominantly Roman Catholic country, from January 15 to 19 next year.
 
The Pope's visit will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the World Youth Day celebration held in the Philippines in 1995 led by the late Pope John Paul II, who was declared a saint this year by Pope Francis.
 
Tagle said the program of the Pope's visit is "to be made public by the Holy See later in the year."

However, he revealed the Pope will visit areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas as well as some places in Manila.

Tagle added the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has encouraged the Filipino people to start observing acts of “mercy and compassion” as early as now in preparation for the Pope's visit.

Asia visit

The 77-year-old Argentinian will visit Sri Lanka from January 12 to 15, before heading to the Philippines—Asia's largest Catholic country, Agence France-Presse reported.

The trip will come six months after Pope Francis' first visit to Asia—an upcoming visit to South Korea scheduled for August 14 to 18 this year.
 
Asia had been repeatedly been tipped as a destination for possible papal trips as Pope Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI did not travel there during his eight-year pontificate. The continent is considered rich with potential for the Church. The Vatican has said evangelization is a big priority in Asia, AFP said.
 
Catholics make up just 3.2 percent of the population in Asia, but the number of believers is growing steadily.
 
Francis will be traveling to Sri Lanka—where some 7 percent of the population is Catholic—in a period of difficulty for the local church.
 
He is expected to use his visit to encourage the church to push for reconciliation between Sinhalese and Tamils, bitter enemies since the 1983 to 2009 civil war whose animosity is threatening to tear the local Catholic community apart.
 
The Philippine trip will be held on a very different note: There are around 90 million Catholics in the country—83 percent of the population—and the pontiff will hold masses with the faithful before likely visits to areas devastated by the Yolanda typhoon in 2013.

Third pope to visit PHL

Pope Francis will be the third pope to come to the Philippines after Pope Paul VI in 1970 and Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.
 
Like Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis is known to veer away from tight schedules set by his officials to pause to greet people along the road.
 
In Italy where he went on a pastoral visit last June, Pope Francis was reported to have stopped the car that was transporting him from an official event when he saw a sign that read: "Please come and bless little Roberta."
 
Roberta is a disabled young woman and the pope blessed and kissed her from her stretcher, Catholic News Agency reported.
 
The CNA said when the pope stopped to greet Roberta, he had come from Cassano allo Jonio where he spoke out against the mafia. —With reports from Agence France-Presse and Veronica Pulumbarit/NB/KG, GMA News