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Philippine Church officials say papal visit not fundraising event

A girl kisses a picture of Pope Francis inside Manila cathedral (CNS photo/Ritchie B. Tongo, EPA)

Philippine Church officials expect the Pope’s January visit to bring healing to victims of disasters, members of their media relations committee told reporters yesterday. However they also emphasised that the visit will not be a fundraising event for the Church.

They said the Pope had requested that money saved go toward rebuilding after disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones to hit the Philippines. The pontiff’s visit includes a stop in Tacloban and nearby Palo, cities in the central Philippines which account for most of the 7,300 fatalities of the November 2013 typhoon.

Mgr Marvin Mejia, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said bishops were chipping in toward the costs of the visit out of their own pockets, although he said they had not yet tallied how much has been given.

Mgr Mejia also said the only special seating at the pope’s outdoor Mass in Manila would go to the poor and people with disabilities in groups of five from all dioceses across the country; everyone else would get in on a first-come, first-served basis. The conference and the Archdiocese of Manila have been reminding the faithful that no tickets are being sold to any papal events, and they have warned against scammers.

Mgr Mejia reiterated the theme of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines, which is Mercy and Compassion.

“And his presence will be a healing presence for us Filipinos,” Mgr Mejia told Catholic News Service (CNS). Fr Anton Pascual, head of the media relations committee, said the theme is not just for Catholics.

“It’s for all victims of calamities, whether Catholic or non-Catholic … both man-made and natural,” he said.

Fr Pascual told CNS that “Mercy and Compassion” also refers to solidarity.

“It’s a very profound mission of the Church — solidarity with the victims of calamities,” said Father Pascual. “The pope … is coming to the victims in the spirit of oneness to be one with them. When one suffers everybody suffers. We feel the suffering of other people because we are part of one humanity, we are brothers and sisters under Christ.”