It all started with the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Tagle‘s personal request to visit the Philippines on the day of his inauguration as Pope and after many months of preparations, POPE FRANCIS finally landed at Villamor Air Base on 15 January and the historic and timely visit by the Catholic Pontiff in a predominantly Catholic country began and brought with him a message of high hopes and spiritual upliftment especially the poor and the underprivileged.
Pope Francis itinerary from 15-19 January included his first mass at the historic Manila Cathedral at Intramuros, Manila founded in 1571 by Padre Juan de Vivero, Mall of Asia Arena located at SM Mall of Asia, Bay City in Pasay, the University of Santo Tomas at Espana Boulevard in Manila established on 28 April 1611, Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park (formerly known as Luneta) in honour of the former President Elpidio Quirino, Malacanan Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines, Tacloban and Palo, Leyte where many Filipinos devastated by Haiyan typhoon reside.
In a letter dated on 7 July 2014, the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines announced the theme of the papal visit, “A Nation of MERCY and COMPASSION which was shortened to “MERCY and COMPASSION”.
POPE FRANCIS became the second POPE to go beyond MANILA after POPE John Paul Paul II who visited Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, Legazpi, Bataan, and Baguio from 17 to 22 February, 1981
The Pontiff was welcomed at Villamor Air Base by about 1200 students and many government dignitaries and Catholic Leaders led by President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay and the Manila Archbishop, the Cardinal Luis Tagle.
Thousands of Filipinos line up the streets welcoming the Pope on his POPEMOBILE on his way to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila.
Other highlights included the special religious mass at the Manila Cathedral for the Bishops, Priest, meet and greet the families of the different dioceses including the poor sector as selected by Caritas Manila at Mall of Asia, the meeting with President Noynoy Aquino at Malacanang Palace, the opportunity to meet homeless children guided by the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation of the Manila Cathedral, the meeting of the victims of the Super Haiyan typhoon in Leyte and record breaking number of over six million attendees at the final mass at Quirino Grandstand.
In his address at Malacanang, Pope Francis gave a very strong message to all, in tackling the cancer of the society, corruption which has been a major issue that hampers the progress of the Philippines and addressing the plight of the poor and the disadvantaged. He urged that political leaders must adhere to “outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good. He added that they must listen to the concerns of the poor and tackle the “glaring and indeed scandalous social inequalities” in society. He also called on all Filipinos “at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make a concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community”. He also hailed the resiliency of the Filipinos who were affected by the Super typhoon Haiyan.
Some sectors were critical of President Aquino’s speech at Malacanang where he criticized the local church for its alleged inaction against the “abuses” by previous administrations and for lobbying against the Reproductive Health Law even before the passage as a law. He however acknowledged the major role of the local Church in opposing President Marcos and criticized undemocratic policies highlighted by Marcos’ downfull following the aftermath of the People Power Revolution. The President however failed to address the major issue of corruption stressed by the Pope Francis in his major message.
On the economic implications as reported by Wikipedia, the visit costed about 200 million pesos for security and other incidentals normally incurred for State Visits, the successful and peaceful papal visit, however will increase investor confidence to do business in the country.
Cardinal Luis Tagle and his team should be congratulated for the overall success of the Papal visit which required International and local Coordination like military and police mobilization, crowed control and security for the Papal delegations, the international guests and the Filipino people. This success gave the Philippines a very good image overseas that the Philippines is a safe country to visit and to trade with.