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MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos cried mercy and compassion in jest while they were elbowed out and pushed as they tried to inch closer to the gates of University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila early hours of Sunday, January 18.
Pope Francis is visiting the university for two events: an intimate interfaith dialogue with religious leaders scheduled at 9:45 am and an encounter with the youth set at 10:30 am.
Mothers were seen guarding their kids from the chaos, a scene that made some young Catholics panic for fear of a stampede. At Gate 6 of the university, Thomasian volunteers cried unfair as they saw media personnel and organizers try to make their way to the gates ahead of others.
Security was tight as with the first 3 days of the Pope’s visit. Bags were checked and security enforcers were positioned in every area and building in campus.
At 5 am, Father Rolando dela Rosa, former rector of UST, said a mass inside the campus for tens of thousands of youth delegates who arrived in color-coordinated shirts and were escorted to their designated areas.
(Since this is a rare opportunity, we don’t want to spoil it, to waste the opportunity to see the Holy Father since he is the Vicar of Christ on earth. We also want to share the blessing. So when we go back to Lingayen and Dagupan, we will be able to share the blessing to the youth we left there.)
Third pope to visit
UST, the second university in the world to be given pontifical status, has been visited by the previous popes in the past. (READ: What you need to know: Pope Francis’ UST visit)
Pope Francis is the third pope to visit UST. (READ: UST on Pope visit: Focus is on the message)
He is set to encourage young people to share in the mission of evangelization. (READ: Know their stories: Thomasian youth volunteers on papal visit)
As early as past midnight on Sunday, January 18, the streets of España were loud and alive with a crowd that patiently lined up around the gates of the university.
Some of the early birds came from provinces outside Manila while the rest were students who lived in nearby dorms. Some said they came with a full stomach, anticipating the long wait. Others chose to bring their snacks, leaving a trail of wrappers and empty bottles.
The early crowd was cheerful, taking selfies and surfing the net. Others brought improvised beds.
By 6 am, however, some who were still not allowed inside grew impatient and decided to go to Luneta Park instead, where the Pope is scheduled to say mass in the afternoon. – with reports from Fritzie Rodriguez