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Pope Francis arrives in the Philippines

Pope Francis waves to Filipinos as he arrives in Manila (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Francis has arrived in the Philippines at the start of what is likely to be one of the most extraordinary visits of his pontificate.

The authorities have declared a four-day holiday in Manila during the visit, ensuring that huge crowds will be able to see the Pope.

Francis arrived at Villamor Air Base in Manila and proceeded by motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature in Taft Avenue. Hundreds of thousands of people had lined the route.

His evening arrival means the formal welcoming ceremony will take place tomorrow (Friday).

But he was met at the air base by President Benigno Aquino III and children from 19 schools who performed a choreographed greeting.

A young boy wearing a traditional barong shirt and a girl in a traditional terno dress gave the Pope flowers and a hug after he descended the stairs from his plane.

Here is the Pope’s official schedule during his four-day trip (all times local):

Thursday, January 15

17:45 Arrival from Sri Lanka – Villamor Air Base, Manila

Motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature – Taft Avenue, Manila

Friday, January 16

9:15 Welcome Ceremony – Malacañan Palace, Manila

10:15 Meeting with Civil Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps (Speech by Pope Francis)

Motorcade to the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral)

11:15 Mass with Bishops, Priests, and Religious – Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Manila (Homily by Pope Francis)

Motorcade to the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay

17:30 Encounter with Families – Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay (Speech by Pope Francis)

Saturday, January 17

08:15 Departure for Archdiocese of Palo – Villamor Air Base

09:30 Arrival at Tacloban Airport

10:00 Holy Mass – Tacloban Airport (Homily by Pope Francis)

12:45 Lunch with the Poor and Survivors of Calamities at Gonzagahaus (Residence of the Archbishop of Palo) – Palo, Leyte

15:00 Blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor – Palo, Leyte

15:30 Meeting with the Priests and Religious at Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration (Palo Cathedral) – Palo, Leyte (Speech by Pope Francis)

17:00 Departure for Manila

18:15 Arrival at Manila – Villamor Air Base

Sunday, January 18

09:45 Brief Meeting with the Religious Leaders

10:30 Encounter with the Youth – Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, España, Manila (Speech by Pope Francis)

Motorcade to Rizal Park, Manila

15:30 Concluding Mass, Rizal Park, Manila (Homily by Pope Francis)

Monday, January 19

09:45 Departure Ceremony at Villamor Air Base

10:00 Departure for Rome – Villamor Air Base

17:40 Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino Airport