MANILA, August 7, 2011—As Filipino pilgrims attending the World Youth Day (WYD) in Spain starts departing this week, Legazpi, Albay Bishop Joel Baylon warned them from illegally overstaying in Europe, saying any defection will only taint the Philippines’ image in the international Catholic community.
According to Baylon, who chairs the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), a number of Filipino delegates to the WYD 2000 in Rome, Italy violated the prescribed number of days in their Schengen Visas and defected to other Schengen States to look for work.
Baylon said that experience prompted ECY to impose stringent evaluation of WYD applications to prevent delegates with ill intention to take advantage of the event to pursue their plans. Baylon heads the ECY-Philippines delegation, whose pilgrims are gathered at the St. Pedro Poveda College for the last day of their preparatory session.
“Don’t even think about it,” was Baylon’s brief but strong warning to WYD delegates against illegally migrating to any Schengen States in Europe.
“We don’t want a repeat of what happened in 2000 because it will only taint our image with future WYD organizers,” he added.
Baylon said banning Filipino participation to the WYD is not remote, citing the case of the Catholic bishops of Myanmar who decided against sending delegation to future WYDs after a number of their delegates defected to Sydney, Australia in 2008.
The prelate said illegal overstaying of Filipinos in WYD host countries could lead to the banning of the Philippines in future WYDs so he called on the delegates to stick to their itineraries and go back home after their trips.
“Do not rob young people with legitimate motives of the opportunity to participate in the next WYDs. Stick to your itineraries and don’t overstay,” Baylon said.
He added that the ECY, which heads the official Philippine delegates to the WYD, will safekeep the passports of its 400 delegates to help curb the incident of illegal defection from the group.
“We will keep the passports of all delegates under ECY-Philippines to keep the temptation away from them. We will only return the passports during the re-entry session on August 22 for our delegates or when they are bound to fly back to the Philippines,” he said.
Aside from the 427 WYD pilgrims under ECY-Philippines delegation, there are other 1,500 who will attend the WYD under other groups. The WYD will officially start on August 16 in Madrid, but some WYD delegates will fly to Spain as early as August 8 to experience days in the diocese. The WYD will culminate with a vigil with the Pope at the Cuatro Vientos Aerodrome on August 21.
While some delegates will return to the Philippines right after the WYD in Madrid, others have expressed intention to make post-WYD tour of European countries covered by their Schengen Visas. (YouthPinoy)