MANILA—As local Catholic officials prepare for the 500th anniversary of Christianity's arrival in the Philippines, they are looking to invite Pope Francis to join the celebration.
This will be part of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' (CBCP) agenda when its members meet this weekend for their 118th plenary assembly.
In an article posted on the CBCP News website on Tuesday, CBCP secretary-general Fr. Marvin Mejia said the bishops are set to finalize plans to bring Francis over to Manila in 2021.
“It will be finalized there,” Mejia said.
Christianity is said to have first arrived in Cebu in 1521.
Mejia said, however, that organizers have no idea whether the pope would accept the invitation or not.
“What is important is that there should be an invitation and program already ahead of 2021,” Mejia said.
Meanwhile, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, head of the CBCP’s commission on mission, noted that this will be the first time for the local Church to invite the pontiff.
“When Pope Francis came to the Philippines four years ago, it was he who volunteered to come in view of the big catastrophe caused by Yolanda,” Bastes said.
While he acknowledged that it is seldom for the pope to visit a country twice, Bastes said Filipino Church officials are still hoping for a favorable response.
“Pope Francis might still consider to accept the invitation to celebrate with us the commemoration of the introduction of Christianity to our country,” Bastes said.
Pope Francis visited the country in 2015. His apostolic visit included a trip in Leyte where he met with survivors of typhoon Yolanda.
In Manila, he held Mass at Quirino Grandstand in Luneta with 6 million to 7 million attendees. The Vatican spokesperson at that time said it is possible that it was the "largest event in the history of the pope."
Francis is the third pontiff to visit the Philippines, after Paul VI in 1970 and John Paul in 1981 and 1995.
The revered image of Santo Niño de Cebu, believed to be the oldest religious icon in the Philippines, was a gift of Ferdinand Magellan to the first Filipino Catholics.
The Philippines remains the largest Christian nation in Asia.