Philippines gears up for Pope Francis' visit

by Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Jan 05 2015 09:20 PM | Updated as of Jan 06 2015 05:55 AM

MANILA - With just a little over a week to go before the papal visit to the Philippines, organizers are reviewing all possible scenarios to ensure that all scheduled activities, particularly the grand eucharistic celebration to be led by Pope Francis at the Luneta Grandstand on January 18, will be successful.

Pope Francis is expected to deliver his papal speech before a crowd of millions during the concluding Mass of the apostolic visit.

As the event falls on the third Sunday of January, the Feast of the Sto. Nino, devotees from the Archdiocese of Cebu will lead people in a Sinulog rhythm before the Mass.

"Those who will attend are requested to bring image of Sto. Nino to join the Sinulog dance," said Fr. Carmelo Arada Jr., who is in charge of liturgy for the papal visit.

Around 200 bishops and 2,500 priests will concelebrate the liturgical mass, and 5,000 eucharistic ministers will be assisted by an equal number of ushers in serving communion.

Representatives from different communities and dioceses make up a thousand-member choir, and a 200-piece orchestra will also take part in the liturgical celebration.

"We have 20 communion chapels, 5,000 communion distributors, 5,000 communion ushers. Ang palatandaan ng distribution, may white communion umbrellas with the logo of the Holy Father and the papal visit," said Fr. Arada.


The venue of the Papal Mass can hold an estimated 1 million to 1.2 million people, with the gathering expected to draw as much as 5 to 6 million. Special sections will also be allotted for representatives from various sectors.

"We'll be having 500 persons with disabilities, 500 from the urban poor, 500 from the religious, lay leaders, the youth under the pastoral care of the church, representatives from government and the diplomatic corps," said Reverend Fr. R. Sescon Jr.

"The aim of all this is to create a national consciousness of unity despite diverse cultural expressions and foster a sense of unity with the universal church," Fr. Arada added.

Central focus on the venue will be at the designated altar table designed by priest-architect Fr. Alexander Bautista, replete with Filipino details and symbols. Fr. Bautista also designed the papal chair.

"The concept is to serve the liturgical purpose, have the Filipino character, and reflect the simplicity of the Vicar of Christ," he said. "We will use T'nalak in another venue to bring in Mindanao also and singhab at kawayan arts and crafts of Bulacan to decorate the canopy. So basically we will bring the Philippines to the Pope if we cannot go around the Philippines."


The Philippine National Police will secure the area days before, and no one will be allowed to camp out at the Luneta grounds and Quirino grandstand.

"Public areas will be restricted the night before, 6 a.m. bubuksan na for everyone, from Rizal Park, Lapu Lapu area, 'yung may Carabao bubuksan 6 a.m.," said Rev. Fr. R. Sescon Jr.

"Security has assured us that there will be enough roads so the Holy Father will go around Luneta before he celebrates the mass. Then by 3:30 p.m. begin the mass," he added. "In coordination with the DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways], we requested that concrete barriers be lined up across Rizal Park... 'yung Kalaw, Orosa, Burgos, then Roxas Blvd., saka papasok sa south road going to the grandstand'. Yung road na 'yun ang hopefully ma-clear."


Meantime, Malacanang appealed for sobriety and challenged Filipinos to be on time and serve as a shining example of peace and order.

"Bayanihan para sa kaayusan at kaligtasan para sa pagdalaw ng Santo Papa. 'Yan po ang panawagan ng pamahalaan sa lahat ng Pilipino," said Secretary Sonny Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office. "Ipakita po natin muli sa buong daigdig ang ipinakita sa EDSA noong 1986, na kahit libo-libo and nagpahayag ng paninindigan, kaya nating mapanatili ang pagiging mahinahon, mapagbigay, paggalang sa isat isa."

The Department of Health (DOH) will mobilize 120 personnel, 20 first aid stations, and 20 ambulances, while public hospitals are ready to receive patients as needed.

Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Gerardo Bayugo said they also tapped the Philippine Red Cross and other groups, as well as Nazareno volunteers used to managing huge crowds, to assist them with the Luneta event.

Organizers advised devotees to prepare themselves spiritually for the Papal Mass, as well as physically, for the challenges that come with being in huge crowds.


1) Bring plenty of water to prevent dehydration

2) Have concern for the safety of others; do not push other devotees

3) Bring fans or raincoats instead of umbrellas so as not to obstruct the view

4) In case of emergency, keep calm and do not panic

5) Those with chronic illnesses should bring medicines and go to nearest first aid station, if needed

6) Pregnant women and infants not encouraged to join the crowds

7) Follow one-adult, one-child rule

8) No firecrackers, no alcohol


Meantime, organizers today disclosed the 32 members of the Papal entourage which includes cardinals, and personnel of the Holy See:

His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
His Excellency Msgr. Socrates Villegas, CBCP President
His Excellency Msgr. Guiseppi Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio in the Ph
Rev. Msgr. Chibukue Onegala, Councilor of the Apostolic Nunciature
Rev. Seamus Patrick Horgan, Councilor of the Apostolic Nunciature

His Eminence Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness
His Eminence Cardinal Fernando Felloni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sara, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship
His Excellency Msgr. Giovanni Angelo Betiu, substitute of the Secretariat of State

Msgr. Mark Gerald Miles, official of the Secretary of State
Dr. Alberto Gasbari, chief organizer of the Papal Visit
Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, director of the Holy See Press Office
Msgr. Dario Eduardo Digano, director of Vatican TV Center
Prof. Giovanni Maria Vian, editor-in-chief of the La Observatory Romano
Prof. Patricio Holisca, personal doctor of the Holy Father

Sixteen others belong to Vatican radio personnel, Vatican press, Vatican aide; as well as Vatican security that includes Swiss guards.