The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is preparing for the possible first Philippine visit of Pope Francis, either in January or February in 2015, even if there is no definite schedule and assurance of his visit yet.
A few days after the Vatican confirmed the Pope’s desire to visit the country, CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas noted that they start preparations even before a papal visit is formally announced.
“In the past papal visit, we started preparing long before the formal announcement [of the visit],” Villegas said, apparently referring to that of Pope John Paul II, now a saint.
An official twitter account of the Catholic News Service (CNS), announced that Pope Francis’ plan to visit the Philippines either in January or February 2015 is “under study.”
The CNS was quoting Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi.
In case the papal visit to the Philippines pushes through, Lombardi said Pope Francis will make a stop in Sri Lanka.
He did not disclose the purpose of the Pope’s possible visit to the Philippines.
From August 14 to 18 this year, Pope Francis will travel to South Korea for the sixth Asian Youth Day at the invitation of the country’s President Park Geun-Hye and South Korean bishops.
He had expressed his intention to visit the Philippines to personally condole with thousands of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda in Central Visayas.
Early this year, Robert Cardinal Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, said during a Mass at La Libertad Mission Church in Palo, Leyte, that Pope Francis had told him, “You go now because I might be going there also.”
Leyte, particularly its capital Tacloban City, was hit the hardest by Yolanda, which killed thousands and displaced several thousands more.
CBCP President Villegas said Filipinos will surely welcome the pontiff to the country.
“The Filipinos love the Pope. The Pope is welcome anytime. Time to prepare is not an obstacle,” he added.
Villegas said the security of the Pope will not be an issue, believing that “there is no problem without any solution.”
On November 27, 1970, a Bolivian artist tried but failed to stab Pope Paul VI at the then-Manila International Airport.
Pasquale Macchi, the pontiff’s personal secretary, subdued the would-be assassin Benjamin Mendoza Amor Flores.
Pope Paul V1 was unharmed.