The Catholic hierarchy plans to invite Pope Francis to visit the Philippines for the fifth centenary of the arrival of the Christianity in the archipelago, a church official said January 22, 2019, according to CBCP News.
Fr. Marvin Mejia, secretary general of the Philippine Bishops’ Conference, said that the matter will be discussed when prelates meet for their plenary assembly in Manila over the weekend.
“It will be finalized there,” Mejia said.
For the past seven years, the church has been laying out plans for the 2021 Jubilee to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first mass and the first baptism in the Philippines.
In 2012, the CBCP embarked on a “nine-year journey for the New Evangelization” with a different theme each year to prepare the faithful for the celebration.
The CBCP official, however, refused to comment whether the pope will accept the invitation.
“What is important is that there should be an invitation and program already ahead of 2021,” he said.
From Sri Lanka, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics traveled to the Philippines in January 2015 as part of his second Asian pilgrimage as pope.
His trip included a visit to the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in Leyte and reckoned the largest papal event in history with around 7 million attendees in his final Mass in Manila.
In a speech in Malacañang, Pope Francis praised the Filipino Catholics’ strong faith and reminded them of their mission to spread the Gospel, noting the upcoming great jubilee.
“It is my hope that this important anniversary will point to its continuing fruitfulness and its potential to inspire a society worthy of the goodness, dignity, and aspirations of the Filipino people,” he said.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, head of the CBCP’s Commission on Mission, noted that this will be the “first time” that the local Church will invite the pope for a visit to the Philippines.
“When Pope Francis came to the Philippines four years ago, it was he who volunteered to come in view of the big catastrophe caused by Yolanda,” he said.
While it is “very a seldom” that a pope visits a particular country twice, the bishop said that they are keeping their fingers crossed.
“Pope Francis might still consider accepting the invitation to celebrate with us the commemoration of the introduction of Christianity to our country,” said Bastes.