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MANILA, Philippines – The order came from Pope Francis himself: organizers should ensure he will have “eye contact” with the Filipino families he will meet at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City on January 16, 2015.
Quoting the Pope’s representatives, Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara disclosed this on Friday, December 12, in a media conference about the Pope’s meeting with Filipino families.
Vergara, chair of the papal visit media committee, explained that the Pope “wants this event to be a real personal encounter” with families there, including the poor.
“If the Holy Father were on the platform, there are still spaces at the back, right, if it’s in a circular form? They told us, no one should be seated at the back,” Vergara said. “The Holy Father wants it to be a respectful encounter, in the sense that he wants the people to have eye contact with him personally.”
This could mean less people can join the event at the MOA Arena.
“Sana mapupuno pa natin ‘yung likod. Ang ganda nga ho sana sa atin. Tayong mga Pilipino, ‘yung maramdaman lang ‘yung presence, kahit nasa likod ka, mahalaga na ‘yon eh. Pero ito po ‘yung spinecify because gusto ng Santo Papa natin na meron talagang eye-to-eye contact when he speaks and when the encounter happens in that afternoon,” Vergara said.
(We had hoped we could even fill the back [of the stage]. It would have been good. For us Filipinos, after all, to feel his presence, even at the back, is already important. But this is the instruction specified, because the Holy Father wants to establish eye-to-eye contact when he speaks and when the encounter happens in that afternoon.)
The MOA Arena can seat 15,000 people, or 20,000 if the standing room is included.
Each Catholic diocese, then, is allowed to send only 100 delegates to the Pope’s meeting with families.
The Pope is set to hold the meeting with families at the MOA Arena at 5:30 pm on January 16. This forms part of his visit with the theme “mercy and compassion.” (READ: Vatican releases Pope’s Philippine itinerary)
Mass at MOA Arena
Fr Dennis Soriano, a liturgist involved in the Pope’s visit, said the Pope will preside over a Mass at the MOA Arena.
Instead, the Pope and the families there “will celebrate the Liturgy of the Word.” Soriano said this involves the following elements:
Sharing of testimonies by 3 families – on poverty, overseas Filipino workers, and persons with disabilities
Reading of the Holy Gospel
Reflection from Pope Francis
Prayers of the Faithful, or a set of prayer-petitions
Blessing for all the families present
The Pope’s request for eye contact is consistent with his previous words and actions.
In his encounters with the public in Vatican City, as well as in other countries, Francis is known for stopping by to embrace the sick, bless babies, or simply talk with people in need. (READ: People’s Pope comes close to Filipinos)
Francis also stressed the need for personal contact in a book he co-authored with Abraham Skorka in 1995, titled On Heaven and Earth. (READ: #ReliefPH: Pope Francis on disaster, charity)
“In Christianity, the attitude we must have toward the poor is, in its essence, that of true commitment,” he wrote. “And He added something else: This commitment must be person to person, in the flesh. It is not enough to mediate this commitment through institutions, which obviously help because they have a multiplying effect, but that is not enough. They do not excuse us from our establishing personal contact with the needy.”
The Pope continued: “The sick must be cared for, even when we find them repulsive and repugnant. Those in prison must be visited… It is terribly difficult for me to go to a prison because of the harshness of life there. But I go anyway, because the Lord wants me to be there in the flesh, alongside those in need, in poverty, in pain.” – Rappler.com