MANILA, March 17, 2014—The Aquino Administration should consider speeding up rehabilitation programs in the areas devastated by super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last year as it is highly possible that Pope Francis would drop by the Visayan Region after visiting Korea for the Asian Youth Day (AYD) this August.
News of the Holy Father’s intention to visit Eastern Visayas have been floating around until his envoy, Cardinal Robert Sarah of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum said it during his trip to Leyte late last January. He announced the Pope’s plan during a mass he celebrated in a Church in Palo that was severely damaged by the calamity that hit the province last November.
If the Papal visit pushes through, Fr. Conegundo Garganta said it would pose a great challenge to the government as the country will be again placed in the limelight through international media coverage.
“Perhaps the presence of the Pope can pressure the government and many other sectors to really rise up from the demands and responsibilities to provide change or uplift the condition of the survivors,” he said.
Garganta, who is the executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth and the leader of the Filipino delegation to the upcoming 6th AYD, added that “the government would not want to be placed in a difficult situation” if the Pope himself would witness how slow aid is being provided to the affected residents.
“The Pope’s visit would be a blessing to challenge the government and our leaders because the presence of international media may push people to do positive change to the lives of the victims of the typhoon,” he added.
Blessed John Paul II was the last Pontiff to visit the Philippines, twice during his papacy. During his last visit, John Paul II celebrated mass with the participants of the 1995 World Youth Day in Manila. The event was noted in history for gathering the largest papal crowd ever, with at least five million people in attendance.
Garganta said it would be a real blessing for the Filipinos if Pope Francis would take time to visit the country during his first trip to Asia.
“We can only hope but if it happens, it will be a blessing for our people to see the Vicar of Christ, especially those who are still in pain and sorrow because of the typhoon and because not much improvement has taken place since the calamity struck,” he pointed out.
The priest also said the Papal visit would give the much-needed “boost in the spirit of the people and in the morale of those who are trying to provide help to the survivors in their little ways.”
According to the most recent government data, at least 6,166 people perished during the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda last November 8 while several thousands more were left displaced and homeless. At least four million families were reported affected from the 44 out of the total 81 provinces in the country.
In a rare chance, the President apologized for the government’s shortcomings in responding and addressing to the needs of the survivors. Catholic leaders urged the Chief Executive to accompany his apology with restitution and called on government to make up for its shortcomings. (YouthPinoy)