Aquino is Filipinos' spokesman in Pope meeting – Palace
MANILA, Philippines – It will be no ordinary visit for Pope Francis when he makes his first trip to the Philippines next month.
The Argentine pontiff's papal visit from January 15 to 19 is both an apostolic and a state visit, as Francis also stands as the head of state of Vatican City.
On his first full day in the Philippines on January 16, Francis will be welcomed in Malacañan Palace by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and his immediate and official family.
The Palace meeting between Francis and President Benigno Aquino III may be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss not only matters of state but also topics that are close to their hearts, according to Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
In a media briefing on Monday, December 29, Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said the Pope's courtesy call on Aquino provides an opportunity for the two leaders to exchange views on both domestic and international issues.
'Aquino is Filipinos' spokesman'
Coloma said that Aquino, as the Filipino people's spokesman, may choose to discuss with the Church leader matters of state and issues "close to [his] heart."
"The President usually decides on what he would say to a visiting head of state on the basis of his own feelings and sentiments....There is an opportunity for [Aquino and the Pope] to take up issues that are close to their hearts and that's their own call," Coloma said.
He added, however, that it is unlikely that political issues will be taken up during the meeting.
"At this point, we don't see ourselves drawing any scenario that might involve political issues. We don't see it that way," Coloma said.
Fr Lito Jopson of the papal media and information committee outlined the events at Malacañang Palace on January 16, 2015.
Filipino music will greet the Pope and his delegation upon their arrival at the presidential palace. He is set to meet with Aquino and his immediate family, as well as government officials at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall.
Both Aquino and Francis will deliver remarks in front of senior government officials and members of the diplomatic corps.
Bishop Mylo Vergara of the Diocese of Pasig said 30 cardinals, bishops, and priests will form part of the Pope's entourage.
Only members of the Malacañang Press Corps can cover the event inside the palace, while other accredited media will be allowed only in the Kalayaan Hall grounds.
Meanwhile, 14 Filipino journalists from broadcast television stations were allowed to join the Vatican-accredited media in the papal flight.
The journalists will be covering the Pope's trip from Sri Lanka to the Philippines and will have the opportunity to join the press conferences onboard the flight.
With a little over two weeks left before the Pope's visit, Coloma gave assurances that the government is employing its resources for the success of the 5-day event.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor said authorities have created a joint task force to ensure the safety of the Pope throughout his visit. – Rappler.com
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