1,200 Filipino youth to greet Pope in PH visit
MANILA, Philippines – As soon as Pope Francis sets foot on the Philippines next year, he will be greeted with "unique Filipino hospitality" – coming from the youth to whom the Argentine pope often addressed his messages.
More than a thousand young Filipino men and women will meet the Pope on his arrival at Villamor Air Base from Sri Lanka on January 15, 2015.
Francis is scheduled to arrive in Manila at 5:45 pm. Some 1,200 youths will greet the Pope "with vibrant music and dance."
"Despite the gathering darkness, we plan to brighten the night with the warmth of our love,” said Fr Lito Jopson of the papal media and information committee on Thursday, November 27.
He added that the youth will perform a Filipino dance for the pope, while two children will offer flowers to the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
“Two children will offer him flowers. They will be orphans who have come to know God as our Father through the love and care of selfless men and women," said Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado, chairman of the papal visit arrival and departure committee, in a statement read by Jopson.
Jopson emphasized that the welcome ceremony will be kept simple in accordance with the Pope's wishes to have a "simple" papal visit.
Among those expected to welcome Francis include President Benigno Aquino III, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
The Argentine pontiff will spend 4 days in Manila. (READ: Public urged: Show PH hospitality during Pope visit)
On January 17, he will go to Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte, to meet with the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Haiyan – the strongest storm to hit land – killed over 6,000 people when it ravaged Central Philippines in November 2013.
Francis' visit will mark the first time in 3 decades that a pope goes beyond Manila. (READ: Pope chooses Visayas as core of Philippine trip)
For the Pope's visit, the Philippines will custom-build a "Popemobile" for the Argentine pontiff.
Members of the papal visit committee declined to provide details about the vehicle for security reasons, but gave assurances the Pope will be visible to the public.
Presidential communications undersecretary Jess Yu added that the vehicle was being designed in coordination with Vatican security.
Pope Francis, known for his simplicity, said earlier this year that he prefers to use open-top cars rather than the Vatican's bulletproof "Popemobile" used by previous pontiffs, which he called a "sardine can."
"It is true something could happen to me but let's be realistic, at my age I do not have much to lose," he said in June, adding that the "Popemobile" made it hard to connect with the faithful.
Ambassador Marciano Paynor also gave assurances the Pope will be kept safe.
"He is our visitor and we can't let anything bad happen to him," Paynor said, adding, however, that there were "no specific threats."
In August, comments by the preparatory committee sparked speculation that the Pope could be transported in a jeepney – a common form of cheap public transport, often decorated with colourful religious artwork, evolved from the jeep.
But officials would not confirm the speculation Thursday.
The last Pope to visit the Philippines, John Paul II, rode a white "Popemobile" in 1995. He waved to crowds from a glass, bulletproof cage at the back of the vehicle. Authorities later uncovered an alleged plot by al Qaeda to assassinate John Paul while he was in Manila.
The bulletproof "Popemobile" was first introduced after the attempted assassination of John Paul in 1981. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
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