His Holiness Francis embarks on his first Apostolic Journey to the Philippines from 15-19 January 2015, bringing with him the message of mercy and compassion of God to Filipinos, especially the victims of super typhoon “Haiyan” that struck the Visayas region on 8 November 2013.
This is captured in the theme “Mercy and Compassion,” and in the Pastoral Letter issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on 4 July 2014 that states, “Our compassionate shepherd comes to show his deep concern for our people who have gone through devastating calamities, especially in the Visayas. He comes to confirm us in our faith as we face the challenges of witnessing to the Joy of the Gospel in the midst of our trials.”
President Benigno S. Aquino III is set to welcome Pope Francis upon his arrival to the Philippines on 15 January 2015 and extends the country’s hospitality in ceremonies at Malacañan Palace.
The five-day visit will see the pontiff meeting with the nation’s bishops, priests, seminarians, members of the religious, youth, and families in separate activities, apart from celebrating a holy mass at the Quirino Grandstand which is expected to gather a huge number of the Filipino Catholic faithful.
The highlight of Pope Francis’ visit is his interaction with the typhoon-hit survivors during a trip to Tacloban and Palo, Leyte. While in the province, the pontiff will also bless the construction site of the new chapel of Pope Francis Center for the Poor and preside a eucharistic celebration at the Tacloban International Airport open field.
In a message released on 14 November 2014, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said that “The Pope’s visit also calls us to personal and social responsibility. As disciples of Jesus Christ driven by the Holy Spirit, we will be challenged to reach out with love to the neglected and abandoned, to help heal the wounds inflicted on children, women and families, to respect neighbors who differ from us, to form the youth in responsible freedom, to value life and creation, and to imbue our culture and society with mercy and compassion. With him let us spread the Gospel of hope with joy.”