Attendance at Pope's First Mass in Philippines Limited to 2,000

Tight Security Expected During Apostolic Visit in January

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There will be space for only 2,000 attendees for the papal Mass in the Manila Cathedral, during Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the Philippines and Sri Lanka, Jan 13-19.

On the grounds of security reasons, authorities have limited the number of people to be present for Pope Francis’ first Mass in the Asian country on Jan. 16, reported Rappler.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, confirmed that while Pope Francis is presiding over the Mass, only 2,000 bishops, priests, and religious will be in attendance.

The Asian cardinal added this will be the Pope’s «first liturgical encounter» with Church leaders.

Two other papal Masses, those in Luneta and Tacloban, will, however, be open to the public.

«The capacity of the cathedral is 2,000 for the Pope’s visit for safety considerations. We should leave aisles open in case of emergencies,» Manila Cathedral rector Monsignor Nestor Cerbo said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

Only 500 of the 2,000 seating capacity will be allotted for lay people, including choir members, medical personnel, and members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), who are tasked with ensuring the Pope’s safety.

In addition, the Filippino Bishops’ Conference decided that each diocese could send 10 priests and five religious laypeople, Msgr. Cerbo noted.

With the visit set to take place next month, the cathedral’s restoration work is underway. Its rector added they are now working to speed up the repair work and upgrade the air-conditioning system. After being closed for repairs in 2012, the cathedral was re-opened recently.

This cathedral, Msgr. Cerbo explained, is historically significant because it is the only church in the Philippines that was declared a basilica by St. John Paul II.

«We are happy that God is blessing the restoration work that we have been doing at the Cathedral with the visit of Pope Francis,» Cerbo said.

He added that they are now working to speed up the repair work and upgrade the air-conditioning system.

For the Mass, he said, those attending will receive identification cards. There will be no replacements nor last-minute changes.

«We will place security scanners at the Manila Cathedral as part of the strict security procedures for the papal visit,” he added, noting, “The PSG will be very strict.»

Presidential Communications Undersecretary Jess Yu has stated the government is working closely with all relevant parties to ensure the “safe and orderly conduct” of the papal visit.

Yu also said that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Philippine National Police will enforce crowd control outside the cathedral for those lay people visiting the area.

Shortly after the Mass, the Pope will meet with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.He is also expected to meet with survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Tacloban City.

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