Gem of thoughts

Every member of the Roman Catholic Church would wish to have a chance to view a pope’s countenance in person, if possible up-close. The excitement is more intense if the pope comes to the latter’s own place of residence. If provided the means, the churchgoer would partake whatever he has just to obtain this one opportunity in a lifetime at a greater chance. So do some people think, especially those who are in a position to do so. However, such may not be the case in the apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines on January 15-19, 2015.

This is simply because, as articulated by Palo Archbishop John Forrosuelo Du in an interview, “If possible, the Pope wants to stay away from the big people, the VIPs.” The term VIPs presupposes the inclusion of politicians who are definitely economically affluent, the wealthy businessmen and other big wigs in the bureaucracy. ““He will be sitting side by side with poor people. Simple food will be served and there will be no VIPs,” Arch. Du was further quoted. Thus, his appeal to those concerned VIPs, “Please give way to the poor for they are the main reason the Pope will come here.”

It was not only Arch. Du who appealed for the VIPs not to take the centerstage in the Pope’s visit and who stressed that Pope Francis came to have time with the victims of supertyphoon Yolanda’s outrage on November 8, 2013. The prelate from Palawan advanced same drift of message on keeping the simplicity of the preparations for this apostolic visit of the Vicar of Christ.

Bishop Pedro Arigo, apostolic vicar of Puerto Princesa, in an article posted on a Chruch website remarked, “The activities and programs to be prepared must be in keeping with the Pope’s personality. Let us avoid holding costly, wasteful and extravagant receptions,” adding, “These, I think, will greatly displease him because they will not be consistent with his message of love and care for the poor,” he added. In an inquirer online news, Bishop Arigo was quoted of stating that an expression of hospitality—a trait Filipinos are known for worldwide—marked by ostentation and insensitivity would likely be an insult to the poor, reminding rather the faithful “to focus on the message that the Pope would be bringing instead of satisfying one’s personal “need” to brag about having met him in person.”

Will all these rhetorics suffice to warn the VIPs from utilizing all avenues just to have the elusive chance to as the colloquy dubs “rub elbows” and say “cheese” with the Pope? Only the host could tell. Although this may not be at all the case in the local preparations for the Pope’s visit, but general observation and experience insinuate, the VIPs may still have the chance to be in the exclusive lunch to be tendered for the Pope after all.

As it is stated in the same news, Arch. Du was quoted, “If possible the Pope wants to stay away from the big people, the VIPs,” and that he will “select 30 individuals who will dine with the Holy Father. The group, he said, will include five people from northern Cebu, five Boholanos while the rest are from Leyte.” But this is not at all a big issue to waste one’s time pondering on for in the end Arch. Du will not decide solely by himself on the matter with respect to the preps for this papal visit. There is the Church’s hierarchy, not to elaborate from the Vatican Protocol Committee, that will finally determine up to what extent the hospitality and goodwill will stretch. Lest this fact be disregarded, the preparation for the 6-1/2 hours visit of the head of state of the Vatican, in the person of Pope Francis, is not exclusively shouldered by the local church, the Pope being the chief leader of the biggest religious organization in whole wide world. The stakeholders from both the public and private sectors are and could be part of the entire outsourcing, either as a benefactor, contributor or key player. There is nothing irregular when the government uses funds for the Pope’s apostolic visit, because the Philippine jurisprudence has in a line of decisions considered the Pope as the head of state called Vatican.

A greater concern could be how to ensure the safety of the Pope and the entire mammoth of faithful in the areas where he will be, avoiding a scenario that is most inimical to the stability of the Church leadership and collapse of Christian faith. As reported, he Pope will be boarding a “Popemobile” that will come from Metro Manila. Arch. Du also disclosed inth interview his anticipation for the possibility Pope Francis going down from his Popemobile to interact with the poor, particularly “the slum area and those who are homeless until now.” He advanced that the Pope’s representatives told him that if the Holy Father will go down from the Popemobile, “I simply have to accompany him.” Even though Arch. Du reported that they are actually 70 percent ready in terms physical preparations, the roads that have to be widened (fast-tracked implementation according to engineering authorities) are yet to improve and a lot of construction of homes for the homeless victims of Yolanda is underway. The Pope may not even care whether the road is widened or the homes are constructed, unless the Vatican fused in funds for these earthworks and they are expected to be done by his day of visit.

Hopefully there are no other major concerns that will mar the visit of the Pope, except natural calamity that could forestall the apostolic visit by making the Pope’s travel impossible and perilous. And this is among what we should pray for sincerely and fervently along with the intentions in the National Prayer for the Papal Visit centering on mercy and compassion. Mercy and compassion, the theme of the Pope’s papacy, is adopted as theme of the Papal Visit, thus beckoning the faithful towards spiritual preparation by way of spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

As to the issue on the sale of tickets for the papal visit, nothing escalated as yet to the public’s awareness. Hopefully the warning of the Vatican through the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, addressed to the public through the CBCP, against the sale of any ticket for the rare affair. Arch. Du announced that Pope Francis will celebrate the Holy Mass of the Pope around 10:30 AM of January 17 at the Tacloban Airport and will later proceed to the Pope Francis Center for the Poor to inaugurate it and to the newly repaired Palo Cathedral to bless it. Both the construction of the Center and the Cathedral are being funded by the Vatican.

There really should be no fanfare to expect in the visit of the Pope. The innate character and values of the Filipinos to give the best for a very special guest and the wish of every leader to be side-by-side with him that plays up drumbeat. Inwardly though, the fact of the Pope’s representation as the Vicar of Christ and the successor of St. Peter that arouse the excitement towards this auspicious day of his being with the poor victims of Yolanda.

As one local vicar said, whether or not he will have the privilege to be invited in a gathering amidst of the Pope’s presence what is more important to him is that he is in a sincere disposition worthy to receive the Pope as guest by showing mercy and compassion to his brethren especially those poor in material possession and in spirit. It is through this acts or mercy and compassion that he can share the same grace that people pray for to obtain in the days towards the apostolic visit of Pope Francis.