By Jing Castaneda
The Philippine itinerary of Pope Francis has already been approved by the Vatican, which means His Holiness will definitely be in the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015.
This was announced to the media Friday night by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
Pope Francis will arrive in the Philippines from Sri Lanka on the afternoon of January 15.
Because this is a pastoral and state visit, President Aquino will personally welcome him, together with Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines.
“Pope Francis will be here not only as the leader of the Roman Catholic faith,” said Jojo Ochoa, Executive Secretary of the Philippines, “he is also the head of the Vatican, and as such, his Holiness will be extended all the courtesies provided to visiting heads of state. … We know the whole nation is excited and we assure everyone that all efforts will be made to make the Pope’s visit meaningful and memorable for our people.”
On the day after his arrival, Pope Francis has a full schedule.
He will pay a courtesy call on Aquino in Malacanang in the morning. He will also celebrate mass at the Manila Cathedral, and then hold a dialogue with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in the afternoon.
On Saturday, January 17, Pope Francis will be in Leyte all day to meet with survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda. Cardinal Tagle says the Pope’s sympathy with the typhoon survivors is the very reason this papal visit is considered unique.
On Sunday, January 18, an inter-religious ceremony and meeting with the youth will be held at the University of Santo Tomas in the morning.
In the afternoon, the much-awaited mass in Luneta, where millions are expected to attend.
Monday, Jan. 19 will be Pope Francis’ departure for Rome.
“We cannot contain our joy, and we want the whole Filipino nation to know of this good news,” said Luis Antonio Tagle, Manila Archbishop. “The pastoral visit of Pope Francis will surely bring much blessing to all of us, especially the poor, the survivor of calamities – both natural and human-caused – and the victims of different types of injustice.”
Now that the Pope’s official itinerary has been released, preparations by the Central Committee for the Papal Visit will now go full-swing.
One thing is sure – the nation is truly excited about the arrival of Pope Francis.
“With Pope Francis’ pastoral visit, God’s mercy and compassion will embrace all Filipinos,” said Cardinal Tagle.