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Manila cardinal welcomes Pope’s visit to the Philippines

Pope Francis embraces Filipino leader Cardinal Tagle last November (CNS)

The Archbishop of Manila has said that the Pope’s visit to the Philippines will be a blessing for everyone in the country, “particularly the poor”.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said: “The pastoral visit of Pope Francis will surely bring much blessing to all of us especially to the poor, the survivors of calamities, both natural- and human-caused and the victims of different types of injustice. The concern and solidarity of Jesus the Good Shepherd will be palpable in the person and presence of Pope Francis.”

Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle announced details of the Pope’s itinerary, which includes his arrival on January 15 after just over two days in Sri Lanka.

Pope Francis leaves Rome on January 12 to fly to Sri Lanka, which is still trying to promote reconciliation and peaceful coexistence after a bloody conflict from 1983 to 2009 claimed thousands of lives.

While the majority of Sri Lanka’s 20 million inhabitants belong to the Sinhalese ethnic group, rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam fought for autonomy for the Tamil majority in the country’s north and east.

During his stay in Sri Lanka, the Pope will celebrate a Mass on January 14 for the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz, an Indian missionary credited with reviving almost single-handedly the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka during severe persecution by Dutch colonial authorities in the 17th century.

The missionary was beatified in Colombo by Pope John Paul II in January 1995.

In the country where Buddhists make up almost 70 percent of the population and Christians only about 6 percent, Pope Francis also will meet with leaders of various faith groups before leaving Sri Lanka on January 15.

On January 16, his first full day here, Pope Francis will spend time with families from all 86 dioceses of the Philippines.

On that morning, he will take care of state visit obligations with a courtesy call to President Benigno Aquino and meetings with the diplomatic corps.

He also will celebrate Mass for the priests and women and men religious at the Manila cathedral.

For the full schedule of the Pope’s visit to the Philippines and Sri Lanka, click here.