TACLOBAN CITY- Leyte Vice Governor Carlo Loreto said that everything is now set for the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis early next year.

In an interview, Loreto said that the provincial government is closely coordinating with archdiocese of Palo on the papal visit, the first ever for Eastern Visayas still reeling from the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda. “We are doing everything that we can do to help in terms of transportation, security, among others,” the vice governor said. According to him, they also helped in fixing the water system in the Palo Cathedral, which is expected to be visited by the Holy Father during his visit. The provincial government has extended assistance to the archdiocese like providing equipment and personnel for the repair of the cathedral which sustained major damages during the onslaught of Yolanda more than nine months ago.

Pope Francis is to visit the country on January 15 to 19,2015 and will arrive in Leyte to hold Mass at the paved area near the Daniel Z. Romualdez (DZR) Airport in Tacloban, the ground zero of the world’s strongest typhoon to make landfall. Church officials have indicated that millions of faithful coming from other parts of the country and of the world are expected to hear Francis say the Mass. Earlier, the City Tourism Office of Tacloban has reported that hotels in the city are now fully booked due to the papal visit. Meantime, Loreto did not oppose to an earlier report that the Pope would rather have typhoon survivors be close with him instead of politicians. “That’s good but I think it’s not right not to allow us to attend the Mass because it’s also our right as catholic-politicians,” he said, adding that even non-Catholics would surely attend the gathering. Pope Francis would be the third pope to visit Philippines after Pope Paul VI (1970) and Pope John Paul II (1981 and 1995), who is now a saint. (JOHANNES PAULUS CASIS, LNU Intern)