Papal Visit

Article By: Joshua Tan

One should be either an established entertainer or an international icon to be able to earn the cover page of the Rolling Stone magazine. The Pope is the latter. Due to his popularity, Pope Francis joins the unlikely few who grace the covers of recognized magazines including Time and Lifestyle Asia. When his visit to the Philippines on January 15-19 was made official, the Filipinos, led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) eagerly responded, preparing his itinerary. But why should this matter to students studying in a secular school such as ISM? What makes this Argentinian native so special to his 10 million followers on his 8 Twitter accounts?

The last time a Pope visited the Philippines was in 1995, on World Youth day, when over 5 million people gathered in Manila, recording the highest assembly for a Papal visit. That number is expected to be topped this year when Pope Francis arrives in the Philippines next week with the hope of conveying the importance of values such as mercy and compassion. To “Speak Less and Act More,” the Pope is scheduled to visit the areas devastated by typhoon Haiyan. This visit will include a lunch with survivors of the calamities that have struck the region. The Pope reminds the people that this is not a commercial activity but a pastoral visit, to be one with his church community, and he clearly intends not to allow VIPs and politicians to be the focus of his visit.

According to Asia Society, at least 86% of the Philippine population is Roman Catholic, making it the predominant Christian nation in Asia. This fact validates the declaration of the 3-day holiday since his visit is able to unite the country as it welcomes the head of the Roman Catholic Church. It allows the people to participate in the upcoming events, especially the masses. The resilient spirit of the Filipino people remains unquestioned and their dedication to their faith is an important aspect of this spirit.

This Pope has already proven his uniqueness through earlier events such as when he kissed the feet of prisoners during mass on Holy Thursday. And unlike the previous Popes, Pope Francis has earned a massive following of young people in the short time (20 months) that he has assumed the office.  It is clear that he aims to lead by example rather than simply preaching. His much-awaited visit to the country’s capital and calamity-stricken provinces is sure to deepen the religious fervor of many.