Pope Francis to send envoy to Cebu in 2016

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Pope Francis to send envoy to Cebu in 2016
Filipino bishops won't insist on inviting Pope Francis because they want to 'give other countries a chance' to see the pontiff

MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis will send a special representative to Cebu, the Philippines’ second biggest city, as the pontiff will be skipping one of the biggest Catholic events to be held there in January 2016.

The reelected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, confirmed this in an interview with reporters on Monday, July 13.

Villegas said he is sure that Francis will no longer visit the Philippines in time for 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Cebu City from January 24 to 31, 2016. (READ: Bishops, priests from 47 countries in Cebu for confab)

Sana bigyan natin ng pagkakataon ‘yung ibang bansa na makita rin siya,” Villegas said. (Let’s give other countries a chance to see him, too.)

He pointed out this is “reasonable” because the Pope already visited the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015.

The archbishop also said Filipino bishops will not insist on inviting Francis to come for the IEC. Otherwise, he said, Filipinos might appear too “selfish” for depriving other countries of the chance to see and meet him.

‘I am still there’

Earlier reports said the Pope might return to the Philippines in 2016 to attend the IEC in Cebu City. 

When asked if it is possible for Francis to make a surprise visit, Villegas said in jest, “Sana naman huwag masyadong ganoon kalaking sorpresa, kasi mahirap yata ang ganoong sorpresa.” (I hope it wouldn’t be that big a surprise, because that kind of surprise would be difficult to handle.)

Villegas added that sending a representative or papal legate, in any case, shows the Pope is in the IEC in spirit. 

He said: “‘Yung pagpapadala ng papal envoy ay pagsasabi na: ‘Nandiyan din ako. Nandiyan pa rin ako.'” (Sending a papal envoy is like saying: “I am also there. I am still there.”) 

The IEC aims to discuss and celebrate the Holy Eucharist, described by Catholics as “the source and summit of the Christian life” because it revolves around the body and blood of Christ.

The Catholic Church expects up to 15,000 pilgrims to join the IEC. It foresees up to a million participants, however, in the IEC’s opening and closing Masses.

The IEC was last held in the Philippines in 1937. That 33rd IEC in Manila was the first in Asia. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email