The Mass to be held by Pope Francis at Rizal Park (Luneta in Manila) on January 18 will be one of a kind and a record of sorts.
It will be concelebrated by 2,500 priests and attended by 200 bishops.
A choir composed of 1,000 members will sing original liturgical songs for the multi-ligual Mass.
The Sunday Mass is expected to attract anywhere between four million and six million people. Among the lucky people who have been chosen to sit near the altar are some 500 persons with disabilities, 500 urban poor, 500 members of religious groups, 500 lay leaders, 500 young people and government dignitaries.
The 1,000 singers who come from different parishes nationwide will hold a general rehearsal on January 10 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao, Quezon City. On January 17, the huge choir will have its final rehearsal at Quirino Grandstand in Luneta.
Fr. Alex Bautista, an architect and chairman of the Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in the Diocese of Tarlac, designed the simple altar to be used for the Mass.
The altar features anahaw leaves, doves and some materials collected from Romblon, Tarlac and other provinces of the Philippines.
The priest said since the Pope cannot go around the Philippines, the Church made sure that the Philippines will be brought closer to the Holy Father.
“The concept [of the Mass at the Luneta]is to serve the liturgical and reflect the simplicity of vicar of Christ . . . if you cannot bring Pope [Francis] around the Philippines, we would bring [symbolic]elements to the Pope,” Bautista added.
During his four-day visit, Pope Francis will be wearing Filipino-designed vestments.
In an interview, Rev. Fr. Carmelo Arada Jr. said the Vatican has approved that the chasuble and the mitre of the Pope will be manufactured in the Philippines.
He added that the chasuble will have sampaguita flowers, anahaw leaves and the image of Santo Niño (Child Jesus).
All of the Pope’s vestments will be in white and some “shades of green” because of the color of the sampaguita and anahaw.
The chasuble is a sleeveless outer vestment worn by the officiating priest at a Mass, while the mitre is a liturgical headdress worn by bishops and abbots.
Arada said some poor communities in Bulacan helped make the vestments of the Pope.
“Regular sila gumagawa ng vestments. Yung mga isusuot ng mga pari mga nanay naman ang gumawa Talleres de Nazareth. Tapos yung sa Pope Desenyo Sagrado ang gumawa [Those communities make the vestments. Those to be worn by the priests are made by mothers belonging to Talleres de Nazareth. Those for Pope Francis are made by members of Desenyo Sagrado],” he added.
The priest said Francis usually brings his own vestments.
But since “the liturgy team of the Holy Father” has allowed the use of vestments made in the Philippines, the Pope will be wearing different vestments at the Luneta, Tacloban City and in Manila Cathedral.
In Tacloban City, Leyte, Francis will meet with survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.