The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Tuesday said this year’s Christmas in the country “carries an added reason for excitement”—Pope Francis no less.
According to CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Yuletide 2014 here remained extra special even if it would be celebrated more than 20 days before the arrival of Francis for a six-day visit next month.
“In a few weeks, Pope Francis will be visiting our country. Although we believe in faith that God is always with us, we also know in our hearts that the coming of the pope to the Philippines is a renewed affirmation of the love of God for us,” Villegas said in a statement.
He added that when Francis sets foot on Philippine soil, he will bring “Jesus Himself, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God-with-us.”
Villegas, however, pointed out that “the pope himself has expressed repeatedly that the focus of his visit must be Jesus Christ.”
“He comes to us to pay homage to Christ, who is already in our country even before the start of the papal visit. The papal visit is Jesus in the Pope visiting Jesus in the Filipino. What a wonderful moment of grace!” he said.
From January 15 to 19, Francis is set to visit the Philippines to personally console victims of calamities that struck the country in 2013.
“Christ is in all of us. Christ is in our poverty. Christ is in our prosperity. Christ is in our hunger. Christ is in our plenty. Christ is in our storms and calamities. Christ is in our progress and tranquility. Christ is in our dark nights. Christ is in our sunny days. Christ is always with us,” Villegas said.
“Indeed that is the message of Christmas. God is not far beyond our reach. God has become small, small like a baby, to make it easier for us to reach him; to carry him; to hug him and caress him; to embrace him and kiss him,” he added.
“As we thank God who has chosen to be so near, in fact to dwell right in our hearts, let us also beg the Lord to open our eyes and hearts that we may always see the wonder of His tender love everyday of the coming year in everything that happens, in every person we meet, in every moment of our lives. Maligayang Pasko po sa lahat [Merry Christmas to all]!” Villegas said.