MANILA, July 28, 2014—Months ahead of Pope Francis’ scheduled visit next year, young people who were too young to feel sentimental about the Pope John Paul II’s record-breaking visit to the Philippines in 1995 are looking forward to the Holy Father’s January visit.
Legaspi Bishop Joel Baylon, who formerly chaired the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCP) Commission on Youth, testified to the young faithful’s excitement for the approaching papal visit.
Baylon shared that the visit will be both a “blessing” and an “opportunity” for the faithful, especially the youth, to have a personal encounter with the Argentine pope, as they had so impressively done two decades back with his equally charismatic predecessor.
The Legaspi prelate encourages the faithful to prepare themselves spiritually for the upcoming event.
The visit, he stresses, is a rare chance Catholic Filipinos should grab to grow richer in their faith.
Baylon believes that the Pope’s mere presence in the country will inspire Filipinos and, especially, raise the morale of those affected by typhoons Yolanda and Glenda.
The bishop expresses optimism that the pastoral visit will rekindle and reanimate the faith of many.
For a lot of Filipinos old enough to feel sentimental about World Youth Day (WYD) 1995, Pope Francis’ coming will bring back a lot of memories.
“I was there! I was there!” prided broadcast journalist Mariz Umali, who was one of the millions of WYD delegates from all over the Catholic world who had braved the heat and the fatigue just to be with then Pope John Paul II, serenading him with “Tell The World of His Love”.
Looking back, Umali said WYD 1995 was among her most cherished moments as a Christian and as a Filipino.
Pope Francis’ coming to the Philippines, which with East Timor is the only predominantly Christian Asian nation, in January 2015, will be the first papal visit after 20 years for many Catholic Filipinos, who had their last “bonding moments” with the Bishop of Rome during the pontificate of St. John Paul II.
To date, John Paul’s phenomenal 1995 visit to the country saw the largest number of Christians ever assembled with between four million and six million people gathered at the Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard. (Raymond A. Sebastián)