From Paul VI to Francis, theme in PH visits continues
MANILA, Philippines – It has been 45 years since the Philippines welcomed its first pope – Pope Paul VI – to its shores.
But despite the decades-long gap between papal visits, Paul VI's 1970 visit and Pope Francis' upcoming trip both show that the theme of mercy and compassion runs through.
This was how Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle viewed the connection between the two papal visits in an interview with Vatican Radio's Director of English Programming, Seàn-Patrick Lovett.
In the interview published on Wednesday, January 7, Tagle spoke about the lasting influence of Paul VI in his religious formation, and drew parallels between Paul VI and Francis.
Tagle recalled that Paul VI came at a time when the Philippines was still recovering from a typhoon. During his visit, Paul VI also made the rounds of the poorest sections of Metro Manila, visiting the poor families in the district of Tondo.
Francis' own visit comes more than a year after Central Philippines was ravaged by the strongest storm to hit land: Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which killed more than 6,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
His visit to disaster survivors in the Visayas region is considered the core of his 5-day trip from January 15 to 19.
Continuity in papal theme
Pope Francis' pro-poor stance and his visit to disaster survivors bears similarities with Paul VI's 1970 visit, Tagle said.
He recalled memories of a post-typhoon Philippines in the days leading up to Paul VI's visit in 1970: "Trees that had been denuded, no leaves at all, streets that were cleaned up hastily for the coming of the Pope, roads that had been paved again."
But despite the disaster, Tagle said that the crowds who turned out to greet Paul VI received him "like a grace from heaven."
The pontiff also endeared himself to Filipinos when he visited the poor families in the district of Tondo in Manila.
Tagle said the families still remember the visit of the first Pope who landed on Philippine shores.
"When I went to the parish for a feast-day, the parish priest and the leaders pointed out to me where the house Paul VI visited used to stand," Tagle said.
"When Pope [Francis] visits, memories and images, and the effects of that visit are still there after 45 years."
With only a week left before Pope Francis arrives, preparations are in full swing. Security details are being planned out, thousands of volunteers tapped for the papal events, and even commemorative stamps issued.
Asked if Filipinos – whom Lovett called "very generous in expressing their affection" – were difficult to hold back from getting over the top with the preparations, Tagle reiterated the Pope's wish to have a simple papal visit.
"We do not want to cause scandal. Everyone can find an excuse to give him a lavish welcome – after all he is the Pope. Still, we should be mindful of the many people we need to welcome in our midst on a daily basis: the poor and the hungry," Tagle said.
Any savings leftover from the papal trip will go to charity, he added.
Tagle added that organizers are doing their best to follow the Pope's wish for the attention to be focused on Jesus instead of on him.
"He doesn’t want to waste time on things that might distract him from his mission, from the focus of his mission which is really to encounter the poor and to listen to the poor," Tagle said. – Rappler.com