MANILA – Palo Archbishop John Du called the attention of security personnel and pleaded to “soften” their stringent security measures during Pope Francis’ visit to Leyte next week.
Archbishop Du explained that some devotees might be discouraged from attending the mass which will be held at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport on January 17 because of tight security measures.
“I ask them to please soften their security measures. Our people would like to see the Holy Father and the Holy Father would like also to be close to the people,” Du urged.
Those interested in attending the Mass are encouraged to cooperate with the security preparations that will be implanted. They will need to be at the site on the evening of January 16, as advised by authorities. They are also discouraged from bringing in tents and umbrellas. Only transparent raincoats are acceptable. Water stations will be provided as well. Moreover, smoking in the site will not be allowed.
Should pilgrims need to bring personal belongings, only transparent bags will be allowed. Also, only those who have pre-registered at their respective parishes will be allowed.
“We don’t intend to serve as a barrier between His Holiness and the people but we are only after his safety,” said Chief Supt. Cedrick Train, the Philippine National Police deputy director in Eastern Visayas.
According to Du, the police started to implement strict security measures that even a solider stopped him at the gate of his residence.
“I asked them to please allow even the walk-in for them to see the Pope. Let them be allowed after they are checked by our security personnel,” said Du referring to the measures at the airport. “I understand them because it is their duty. They are responsible for the safety of the Pope. But this is also an affair of the Church. We have also our pastoral obligation,” he added.
Initially, local organizers said that they are expecting around 150,000 to attend the Mass. However, only less than 20,000 registered as of January 5.
Each parish within the Archdiocese of Palo including Calbayog, Borongan, Naval, and Catarman was given 1,000 slots.
Du pointed out that if security measures are more lax, more people will attend to see the Pope.
In terms of security, 7,000 policemen and soldiers will be deployed to safeguard Pope Francis. A security officer will be present every five meters within the 12-kilometer road. Civilian volunteers will be there as well to serve as human barricade.