MANILA, Philippines – Organizers of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines urged the public to help make the 5-day visit a memorable trip for the Argentine pontiff by displaying Filipino hospitality and cooperating with authorities on security procedures.
Members of the papal visit committee discussed the security preparations ahead of the Pope’s trip to the Philippines in January 2015, during a media briefing on Thursday, November 27.
While the organizers refused to divulge specifics – such as where the Pope will be staying, and what kind of vehicle he will be using – they stressed that both the Church and the government are committed to securing the safety of the leader of the Roman Catholic church.
Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr said that to effectively secure the Pope, they need the cooperation of the millions of Catholic faithful expected to attend the events in Manila and Tacloban.
“We need the collaboration of everyone. We would like to emphasize their participation in ensuring that the Pope’s visit here will be one that he will remember because of our hospitality, the way we treat our guests, [and] also in the way that we behave,” Paynor said.
‘Contain your enthusiasm’
Francis’ 5-day visit will prove to be a security and logistical challenge for organizers.
He will spend 4 days in Manila for events at the Manila Cathedral, the Mall of Asia Arena, the University of Santo Tomas, and Rizal Park.
He will also spend one day in Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte, to meet with survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Paynor said that an estimated 6 million people will be present during the Pope’s visit, compared to the 5 million people during the papal visit of Pope John Paul II in 1995.
Recalling the 1995 visit, Paynor said that although police forces were deployed to control the crowds, the “outpouring of enthusiasm” resulted to pushing and shoving among the public.
For the Pope’s visit, Paynor said close collaboration among the government, church, and the public is needed, especially with reports as early as September that terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may be planning an attack on the Pope.
“If we’re able to get the cooperation of everyone, then everyone is a security person also. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to the Pope, that’s why we’re asking the people to help,” Paynor said.
He added that the Church is encouraging the Catholic faithful to adopt proper decorum during the Pope’s visit.
“The Church [is] encouraging everyone to contain themselves, contain their enthusiasm….No pushing, no shouting, just to be able to see His Holiness.”
“[For me], as long as I can see him, I’m blessed as well….We are continuously trying to see what we can do [for the crowd to] at least have visual contact with him,” Paynor added.
Security measures in place
The organizers refused to say where the Pope will be billeted and the vehicle he will use during the visit, citing security concerns.
Francis will be provided with a pope mobile where he will be visible to the public. But there will be instances where he will use a closed vehicle instead, according to Jess Yu, undersecretary for legislative, policy and legal affairs of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Yu also said that all security concerns are being discussed in close consultation with the Vatican.
While the Pope will be secured by the Presidential Security Group (PSG), the security committee will involve the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of National Defense (DND).
As for the Pope’s route as he travels to different points in Manila, Paynor said they are still studying which roads would be better suited to handle the Pope’s security and the crowds who would be lining out to meet him. – Rappler.com