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A few days from now, our country will be blessed to have Pope Francis, the Holy Father and Vicar of Christ, in our country. It is truly a blessing for the Philippines to have His Holiness with us at the start of 2015. And, with such a short time left, all plans and preparations are being finalized to perfection by the organizers, supporters and volunteers. This is, once again, a memorable experience for Filipinos.
Through this visit, our Holy Father will deliver his message of “mercy and compassion.” All Catholic Filipinos must grab the opportunity to take part in the programs for the Pope’s visit. It is not every day that we have a close encounter with the Pope. And once an individual has a chance to meet the Pope, it will never be forgotten in his lifetime.
My sisters Marie and Michelle experienced this kind of opportunity with Pope John Paul II, who was canonized last year and is now Saint John Paul II. Three years before their encounter, Pope John Paul first visited the country from Feb. 17 to 22, 1981, and traveled to different provinces including Baguio, Cebu and Davao. He was welcomed by millions of Filipinos who were excited to see him personally.
My dad and Cardinal Tagle enjoy a good laugh during a meeting, along with Alice Eduardo.
In 1984, three years after the Pope John Paul’s visit, my dad, mom and two sisters visited the Vatican to give him a gift. My father brought with them an album with a compilation of the Pope’s pictures taken during his first visit to the Philippines. My mom and sister Michelle recall how it was a great chance to see him face to face. They were seated in a good first-row seat during the Mass. Afterwards, Michelle, who was only eight years old then, had a chance to be carried by the Pope. It was really an unforgettable experience for them.
Then, in 1995, Pope John Paul II returned to the Philippines. The youth were a huge part of the visit because of World Youth Day, which was hosted by the Philippines, the first for any Asian country. His closing Mass was attended by close to five million people.
And now, many Filipinos will have this same chance to meet Pope Francis and have a short but very meaningful encounter. Just a few weeks ago, I met with Cardinal Tagle to give our support to the preparations they are making for the Pope’s arrival. And I am glad to know that many are eager to volunteer and be part of the program.
Twenty years since the last papal visit comes Pope Francis, the People’s Pope, who is known to have affection for the poor. He is a true example of humility and simplicity. He will be visiting Tacloban as well, to comfort the Filipinos who were devastated by typhoon Yolanda.
Through this visit, we are reminded of the good works of our Lord. Let us all reflect and remember that Jesus is the center of the Pope’s visit. Let us all welcome him with our love and prayers.
From all the difficulties we are facing in our everyday lives, let this be our chance to strengthen our values and faith and straighten the paths of our lives. Will you be one of the many who will be blessed by Pope Francis? This is a very rare opportunity for all of us.
I hope that the Philippines will continue its spiritual growth even after the visit of the Pope. We should always remember our roots and keep our spiritual values alive.