Senior Church officials in the Philippines have urged the nation’s Catholics to “spiritually prepare” for Pope Francis’ visit in January 2015.
The nations’ Catholics must prepare to receive the Pope as “the messenger of peace, love and the apostle of the poor,” officials of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said, according to the CBCP News, the bishops’ official publication.
His trip to the Philippines will be Francis’ fourth visit outside Italy, and his second trip to Asia. He is also expected to visit Sri Lanka on a separate leg of the trip.
The Vatican has yet to formally announce the exact date and specific itinerary of the visit.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle speculates the Vatican may officially announce the papal visit date this month or August, and the itinerary by November.
Among the Pontiff’s possible activities is a visit to Leyte, which was devastated by the deadly super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ last November.
The “underlying spirit” of the papal visit is the theme of “mercy and compassion,” said CBCP president, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, calling them the “cherished ideals of Jesus.”
He noted that the Holy Father “comes to confirm us in or faith as we face the challenges of witnessing the Joy of the Gospel in the midst of our trials,” adding, “this is an eloquent way of showing mercy and compassion.”
Believing the most distinctive way to prepare spiritually for the coming of Pope Francis is for the country to become “a people rich in mercy,” he called on his people to “make mercy our national identity.” He called on them to “trust in God’s mercy is part and parcel of our traditional Filipino Christian culture.”
“Let us make the practice of mercy our gift to the Pope when he comes to visit us,” he said.
The bishops have encouraged Filipinos to resolve to make an act of mercy everyday. Whether it’s giving food to the hungry, helping build homes for the typhoon victims, or visiting prisoners, the sick or elderly, or even simply “being polite” to the young and old.
“When the Pope comes,” Archbishop Villegas believes, “he will bring with him the message of the mercy and compassion of God.”
The Church leader said his hope for when Francis meets his people is that the Pope sees in them “a people touched by the mercy of God, living out the compassion of God, a people truly rich in mercy and compassion and grateful to those who have mercy to us, especially after various calamities hit our country.” (D.C.L.)