MANILA – For Filipinos who wish to see Pope Francis on January 18, the Argentine Pontiff requested for him to be allowed to roam around Rizal Park so that he could bless and greet the people before the Mass starts.
Thus, the organizers of the Pope’s visit will map out a route around Rizal Park in coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
According to Rev. Rufino Sescon Jr., executive secretary of the papal visit committee, concrete barriers will be set-up around the route to ensure the safety of Pope Francis. These barriers will be installed along Kalaw Avenue, Maria Orosa Avenue, Padre Burgos Avenue, Roxas Boulevard and the South Road leading to Quirino Grandstand.
“That’s what the Pope wants. Even in Rome, that is done. Before the Mass, the Pope goes around to greet the people,” said Sescon. “He wants to really meet and bless everyone because that will be his only chance [to do so].”
The Mass, which will be held at the Quirino Grandstand, is the only event open to public. Some events are limited due to limited space of the venues which include Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, and SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
When Pope John Paul II visited the country during the World Youth Day in 1995, the Pope also requested to roam around the area however the “human chain barriers” were not able to control the crowd.
“[We] learned from that [experience] so we tapped the help of the DPWH,” said Sescon.
Moreover, there will be a minimum of 18 giant LED screens to allow crowds to witness the Mass, added Sescon.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that they are expecting that about five million Filipino devotees would be present durint the Pope’s mass.
“Rizal Park has not expanded in the last 20 years since Pope John Paul II’s visit … as far as physical space is concerned, it can hold 1 million to 1.2 million people,” said Coloma.
He added, “But considering the ebb and flow of the crowd, the numbers could go higher.”
Camping out at Rizal Park before the mass on January 18 will not be allowed, Sescon noted. But the venue will be open as early as 6 in the morning.
“They will secure the area days before so no one will be allowed to camp there. This is to make the event orderly and peaceful,” he said.
Aside from the security barriers, there will also be 20 first-aid stations and 400 portalets installed in the park. There will also be 20 ambulances for emergency purposes.