Pope Vatican

Ateneo community welcomes Pope Francis

Janelle Paris, Regine D. Cabato
Ateneo community welcomes Pope Francis
The Ateneo community is prepared to welcome one of their own, Pope Francis, who was trained as a Jesuit priest

This article was first published in The GUIDON.

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) prepared for Pope Francis’ 5-day state and pastoral visit, so did the Jesuit and Ateneo community. However, there is no news of any potential visits to the Ateneo or local Jesuit community.

The Ateneo Reserve Officers’ Training Corps assisted the Philippine Air Force for the Pope’s arrival Thursday, January 15, and the Ateneo de Manila University will be sending a contingent of 200 to the meeting with the youth on Sunday, January 18.

Three Jesuit priests are directly involved in the event, each of them designated to specific tasks by the CBCP’s Central Committee for the Papal Visit 2015, chaired by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, SJ, rector of the Loyola House of Studies, will serve as official translator for Papal Spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ throughout the entire visit.

Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ will take charge of the liturgical songs in Rizal Park on Sunday, January 18. Mass music will be in various local dialects to celebrate the Pope’s regard for inclusivity. Fr Francisco is behind mass song staples such as “Tanging Yaman.”

Meanwhile, Fr. Nono Alfonso, SJ, head of Jesuit Communications (Jescom), will handle church media groups such as Kerygma and the Family Rosary Crusade. Jescom is a church media organization that produces Catholic radio and television programs and liturgical music. 

Music and media

Jescom’s end project will be a documentary film of the papal visit, which is expected to be finished by February for airing on major local television networks, including ABS-CBN. It will be produced by the same team behind the Pedro Calungsod documentary released in 2012.

Aside from the CBCP-assigned tasks, Jescom released a 14-track commemorative album titled “Mercy and Compassion: Songs for Pope Francis” this month. Featuring Catholic and non-Catholic musicians alike, the album consists of tracks by artists like Ebe Dancel, Aia de Leon, Jett Pangan and Cardinal Tagle.

“The album… follows the vision of Pope Francis’ openness, dialogue with the secular world [and his reaching out beyond] the Church… [to] different faiths,” Alfonso said. The album takes its name from the visit’s theme, “Mercy and Compassion,” which Alfonso said best exemplifies the Pope, who is “now fast becoming known as the ‘Pope of Mercy.’”

Alfonso added that Tagle’s track on the album titled “Sanlibong Buhay [A Thousand Lives]” might interest the Pope, as the Manila archbishop is known to be one of his closest friends in the college of cardinals. Jescom will send the album to the Vatican through Fr. Tony Moreno, SJ, father provincial of the Filipino Jesuits.


Youth delegation

The only confirmed involvement of the Loyola Schools (LS) is organizing a delegation to Pope Francis’ meeting with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) on Sunday. The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, one out of four sectors represented at the meeting, sent the invitation through the LS Office of the Campus Ministry (OCM). The other sectors are the Episcopal Commission on the Youth, the Archdiocesan Commission on the Youth and the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization.

The request saved 200 seats for Atenean representatives; of these, 175 are students and 25 will be adult supervisors, including professionals and faculty members. Ten students from each of the Faith Formation Cluster organizations and 40 students from the Sanggunian and the Council of Organizations of the Ateneo (COA) were given slots, and the remaining free seats were given to those who signed up on an open document set up by the OCM last December.

“In the emails that we have, we would send them some materials that might be good for their reflection,” said Campus Minister Arvin Basa, who stressed that the students also have to prepare themselves spiritually for the meeting. “For example, some of the songs that will be used for the papal visit… There are so many videos and so many reminders from the CBCP and from the other organizers.”

Youth delegate and communication sophomore Cholo Sediaren said that he prepares through reflection. “I believe that action and reflection come together, and so reflecting on what the occasion means, not only for myself but also for the country, feels like the most appropriate way to prepare myself to be in His holy presence through the Pope,” he explained.

The delegation received an initial briefing at the Ricardo and Dr. Rosita Leong Hall auditorium last Monday, and was instructed to observe the reminders and safety measures for the event attendees.

Basa added that OCM relied largely on general preparations due to a lack of time, and their “only participation will be our presence.”

There is an expected attendance of 24,000 at the meeting with the youth, where selected youth representatives will be delivering testimonials.


Encounter, not an event

Speaking on behalf of his fellow Jesuits, Alfonso said, “Our hope is that [the visit] becomes an encounter rather than just an event,” recalling two Jesuit priests whose vocation stories started after their encounter with Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1995. He especially hopes this for the youth, as one of the main concerns of the Catholic Church is the transmission of the faith.

Alfonso invited the more cynical youth to look up to what he called Pope Francis’ charity in action. “We (the youth) do not believe in our institutions anymore because they have failed us,” he said. “[The Pope is] modeling for us a new kind of leadership.” Alfonso recognizes that the Filipino youth look for authenticity in their leaders, and this leadership is one that walks its talk.

With the purpose of Pope Francis’ visit being companionship for those affected by the typhoons that recently hit the Philippines, Basa points out the “desire to be one with the people and one with those who suffer, and really exude that mercy and compassion that Christ also proclaims in the Gospel.” Basa added that Pope Francis’ visit would hopefully spark the desire to live up to those standards as well.

Likewise, Sediaren predicts that the visit will “reinvigorate what religion means for the Filipino youth.” He notes that the Pope is very popular on social media. “I expect that Pope Francis would be eager to share his thoughts to the youth through our faith. At the same time, I also expect that these thoughts would be shared with an open mind and heart, in the same way Jesus taught his followers.”

Sediaren shares that his own mother had met the Pope at World Youth Day 1995, and recalled her saying that “seeing the Pope is like seeing Jesus in real life.” Twenty years later, Sediaren looks forward to his own encounter, saying: “Her encounter with the Pope happened while she was carrying me in her womb, so it sort of feels like it has come full circle.” – Rappler.com

Regine D. Cabato and Janella H. Paris are writers for the Beyond Loyola Staff of The GUIDON, the official student publication of the Ateneo de Manila University.


Rappler’s MovePH and The GUIDON have partnered to capture the people’s stories during the visit of Pope Francis in the Philippines. 

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