Youth groups to hold camp, activities during Pope's visit
MANILA, Philippines – A national coalition of youth groups announced Tuesday, January 13, that it is set to hold a youth camp, among other activities in Manila, during Pope Francis’ visit from January 15 to 19.
Led by the Student Christian Movement Philippines (SCMP), thousands of youths from Metro Manila and nearby provinces are expected to flock to areas where the Pope will hold public activities, the organizers said.
“The Filipino youth will welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to the Philippines with a series of activities meant to send to the Pope not only messages of support but also messages that show the genuine situation of the youth and the people of the country,” Enstein Recedes, SCMP spokesperson, said.
Below are the groups' plans:
Wednesday, January 14 – Festival of Colors: A “Festival of Colors” will begin the group’s activities on the eve of the Pope’s arrival. Youth and students will "throw colors" at each other at 4 pm in front of UST in España. A series of presentations depicting the situation of the Filipino youth in the country will follow.
Thursday, January 15 – People’s Welcome: Youth delegates will march to Liwasang Bonifacio at 10 am to join the Misang Bayan to welcome the Pope. They will return to Espana at 4 pm to unveil a 30-foot tapestry depicting the Pope and his role in the Filipino youth’s struggle.
Friday, January 16 – People’s March: When Pope Francis meets government officials in Malacanang, the group will join a bigger multi-sectoral mobilization in Mendiola to highlight the plight of Filipinos.
Saturday, January 17 – Youth vigil: While the Pope is in Leyte, youth groups will hold a vigil at the Dapitan Gate of UST. An ecumenical activity and youth concert will highlight the vigil from 3 pm until dawn.
Sunday, January 18 – Youth Gathering at UST and Luneta: Youth groups will converge with other Catholic faithfuls to join the Pope’s activities in UST and Luneta. A representative of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) will be handing the Pope a painting and letter from the youth.
What about security?
The groups will push through with the camp activities despite the government’s tight security arrangement during the Argentinian pontiff’s visit. Camping out near the areas during the papal visit will be disallowed by the police.
In UST, only certain gates will be opened at 4 am on January 18 for the Pope’s encounter with the youth. In Luneta, where millions of Catholics are expected to gather, some 25,000 policemen and 7,000 military troops will make sure that no one enters the grounds before 6 am. Authorities earlier appealed to the public to only start going to the venue the night before the concluding mass.
Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan National Chairperson, said the youth cannot be stopped for wanting to get a glimpse of the charismatic leader.
“The Filipino youth, especially the activists, are excited for Pope Francis’ arrival because we can relate to his activist, anti-capitalist, and pro-poor character. We urge the Aquino government to stop the fear mongering and cover up,” Crisostomo said.
He added: “In his welcome statement, the President used the words ‘stampede,’ ‘loss of life,’ and ‘panic?’ Why is he highlighting those things? It’s sickening that they’re scaring people of the security arrangements.”
President Benigno Aquino III earlier urged Filipinos to cooperate and ensure the Pope’s safety so the Philippines will not be remembered as “having had a tragedy related to a Pope.”
Pope urged to visit the poor
The youth groups maintained their earlier call for the Pope to diverge from his official itinerary to visit poor communities in the country.
“We want the Pope to move away from his official itinerary to see the real face of the Philippines, beyond what the government wants him to see. We all know they want to hide the true situation of the Philippines from Pope Francis,” Recedes said.
Sarah Elago, national president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) also said that the group is hoping that the Pope will strengthen the fight for their causes.
“We want the Pope to know that in the Philippines, education has become a privilege and not a right. Our biggest concern is that finishing our studies has become such a burden because of the financial constraints,” she said.
Elago added, “We want Pope Francis to join our cause and stand with the youth who only want equal educational opportunities for all.”
Francis’ visit comes 19 years after Pope John Paul II’s pastoral visit to the Philippines during the World Youth Day 1995. Seen as a progressive leader, the Argentinian pontiff will meet with Filipino families from different sectors during his 5-day stay. – Rappler.com