Pope Francis in Luneta: Things you should know

Bea Cupin

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Pope Francis in Luneta: Things you should know
Hoping to catch Pope Francis during his closing mass at the Rizal Park? Here are a few things you should know.

MANILA, Philippines – One of the highlights of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines will be the open-air mass at the Rizal Park on Sunday, January 18, his last engagement before he returns to the Vatican.

The mass, scheduled to begin at 3:30 pm on Sunday, is likely to be attended by millions of Filipinos.

The last time a pope led mass in the same area in 1995, some 5 million Filipinos trooped to the area, in one of the largest papal gatherings in the history of the Catholic Church at the time.

Twenty years later, government officials are expecting more people but they said not everyone will get the chance to get close to the Pope.

In a briefing on Monday, January 12, Interior Secretary Roxas said only aruond 700,000 people will be able to enter the main activity area. 

Roxas explained this was to prevent overcrowding in the open-aired space. (READ: FAQs: Pope Francis’ trip to the Philippines)

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas earlier urged all Filipino Catholics to troop to Luneta to take part in the Pope’s closing mass, telling them “not be afraid of the inconveniences” and not to “mind the weather.” Villegas also heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Inconveniences are one thing but if you’re planning to be among the millions in attendance in Luneta, here are a few things you should know:

Come early, but not too early. The entrance to the main venue will only be opened at 6:00 am for the 3:30 pm mass. Before that, the faithful will not be allowed to enter the Rizal Park area since security forces need to sweep the venue first.

Government workers secure the barriers at the vicinity of the Quirino Grandstand where the Pope will head mass on January 17. Photo by Mark Saludes/Rappler

Camping out will not be allowed in the venue in the days leading to the mass. Authorities also appealed to the public to only start trooping to the venue the night before or Saturday, January 17. Being in the venue earlier would result in heavier traffic along the area, Roxas said.

Gates will be closed by 2:30 pm, an hour before the mass is scheduled to begin.

Know your entrances and be prepared to walk. According to National Capital Region Police Office Chief and Task Group Manila head Police Director Carmela Valmoria, the entrance will be located along Maria Orosa street, roughly a kilometer away from the main venue.

At least 20 scanners will be part of the security measures for the mass, aside from the thousands of police who will be deployed to secure the area.

Roads will be closed to vehicular traffic, a considerable distance away from Luneta. Mass-goers can opt to be dropped off at the corner of Roxas Boulevard and Quirino Avenue, at the corner of UN Avenue and San Marcelino, and the corner of Ayala and San Marcelino.

Vehicles will also be barred from crossing Jones, McArthur and Quezon bridges. Here’s a map you can use to pinpoint restricted areas during the Pope’s mass: 

Another option is for attendees to take the LRT1 and go down at the UN Station.

So get your walking shoes ready: you’re in for long walks.

‘Slots’ are limited. The land facing Quirino Grandstand is roughly 2 hectares, and will definitely not be able to accommodate more than 5 million people safely. Area security will only roughly 700,000 to enter. 

Roxas explained security forces will be assigning “quadrants” in the area and will only allow a certain number of people per quadrant. The system, officials hope, will prevent overcrowding and prevent stampedes in the venue.

'Quadrants' will prevent overcrowding at the Luneta Park during Pope Francis' closing mass on January 18

The quadrant system also means that once you get in, you better be prepared to stay there until after the mass. Attendees are free to leave, but run the risk of losing their “slot” if they do.

But don’t worry. Once you’re in a quadrant, you’re assured that you’ll have police and medics dedicated solely to your area.

There is no designated area for those who will not be allowed inside any quadrants, but security personnel will still be present in surrounding areas: nearby streets and other open spaces closest to the Quirino Grandstand. 

“It’s no secret, the Pope will want to go around,” said Roxas, adding that there will be space between each quadrant so the Pope can interact with people either before or after the mass.

“This is also a pastoral trip and the Pope will want to interact with his flock,” added Roxas. (See other reminders from the government here– Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.