From cardboard cutouts of Pope Francis in churches to slogans such as “Love ko Pope” lining the streets, preparations for the Holy Father’s visit to the Philippines have been underway for the last few months. But now the time has come.
The last time a pope visited the country was in 1995 when Pope St John Paul II saw five million people gather for Mass in Rizal Park. With thousands of people taking to the streets to welcome Pope Francis and 80 per cent of the population Catholic, it will come as no surprise if the predicted figure for Sunday’s Mass attendance – about six million – becomes a reality.
For those who have watched him on television and dreamed of visiting Rome one day, the Pope’s presence will feel like a personal gesture of love and commitment to them.
In a country rife with corruption and poverty, Francis’s frank approach and affable manner is appealing to Filipino Catholics. Much like Cardinal Tagle, Pope Francis epitomises a new era within the Church for Filipinos: one where its flock feels tended to by its shepherd. The Pope’s visit to the Philippines reinforces this idea – that the Church really is the people of God.