The visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Philippines on January 15-19, 2015 is indeed a great blessing to a nation whose covenant with God has been tested in various ways, but which has also savored many triumphs in its four centuries of Christian faith.
The spotlight will not be on the person of the Pope but on the communities devastated by “Haiyan,” the strongest typhoon on record, whose destructive path displaced four million people and flattened a million homes. Pictures of survivors, carrying religious images and clutching their rosaries while fleeing in the height of the typhoon’s devastation, are images of faith that have struck a chord in the common humanity that brings the world together in times of tragedy.
Pope Francis will be with the people of Tacloban and Palo in Leyte as they recount their stories of survival, pray for their dead, and continue to rebuild their lives. “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,” states the Pastoral Letter issued by the bishops of the Philippines on July 4, 2014 to Prepare the People of God for the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis
The 2015 visit is also in response to the invitation of civil authorities, which affords the Holy Father the chance to meet the faithful in Manila, the nation’s capital.
Christians from all walks of life are urged to prepare spiritually for the Pope’s forthcoming visit, embracing the mercy of God and becoming a merciful people, concretely by extending an act of mercy every day and by frequenting the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
“When the Pope comes, he will bring with him the message of the mercy and compassion of God. When he meets us, may he see in us a people touched by the mercy of God, living out the compassion of God, a people truly rich in mercy and compassion and grateful to those who have shown mercy to us especially after various calamities hit our country,” the Pastoral Letter states.