DEVOTEES WARNED ON BRIDGE; DPWH POINTS AT CRACKS IN MacARTHUR WHERE NAZARENE WILL PASS

Four days before the annual Black Nazarene procession, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) yesterday issued a warning on the structural integrity of MacArthur Bridge which is part of the procession’s route, noting that the structure has minor cracks and is subject for retrofitting. DPWH Undersecretary Romeo Momo said Catholic devotees joining the translacion activities should only pass through one lane of the bridge to ensure their safety. “They can make use of the southbound lane. This is the recommendation of DPWH-National Capital Region officials after their meeting with the feast organizers,” he said. Momo said those participating in the Black Nazarene procession should exercise caution and should not stay too long in the bridge to avoid overcrowding. “The people must be moving and should not standby in the bridge. There must be marshals for crowd control,” he said.

ALSO: Pope announces first visit to Holy Land, May 24-26

Pope Francis said Sunday he will make his first trip to the Holy Land, visiting Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem from May 24 to 26. “In the climate of joy typical of this Christmas period, I would like to announce that from May 24 to 26, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” Francis told crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square for the traditional Angelus prayer. Francis said the date of the announcement — January 5 — was significant because it “commemorates the historic meeting between pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople”, 50 years ago. Their meeting in 1964 in Jerusalem led to the rescinding of the excommunications of 1054 that caused the Great Schism between the churches of the East and West. During the visit, the pontiff said he would hold an “ecumenical meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem” at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in East Jerusalem, venerated as the place where Jesus was buried.

ALSO: Pope urges atheists to join with believers in quest for world peace

"Join with us in a "desire that widens the heart," Francis says. In his first Christmas as pontiff, Pope Francis has called for prayers for peace in major conflict areas of the world, also urging non-believers to unite with the faithful in that quest. Speaking before tens of thousands of people in his annual Christmas "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and world) message, Francis cited Syria and the "often forgotten" Central Africa Republic as well as South Sudan, Nigeria and Israel and Palestine. He also mentioned Decmocratic Republic of Congo. "So many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance," Francis told a big crowd at St. Peter's Square. "Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid.

ALSO: Pope wants fresh approach to children of gay, divorced parents

ROME: Pope Francis has called for a rethink in the way the Catholic Church deals with the children of gay couples and divorced parents, warning against “administering a vaccine against faith”. “On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which for us are sometimes difficult to understand,” Francis said in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, extracts of which were published on Italian media websites on Saturday. “The number of children in schools whose parents have separated is very high,” he said, adding that family make-ups were also changing. “I remember a case in which a sad little girl confessed to her teacher: ‘my mother’s girlfriend doesn’t love me’,” he was quoted as saying. The pontiff said educational leaders should ask themselves “how can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?” “We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them,” the 77-year-old added.


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Devotees warned on bridge DPWH Points At Cracks In MacArthur Where Nazarene Procession Will Pass


YOUNG NAZARENE DEVOTEE – A young girl touches the hand of a Black Nazarene replica in Quiapo Church during the First Friday Mass in Quiapo, Manila, on Jan. 3, 2014, a few days before the grand procession of the revered icon. (Michael Varcas)

MANILA, JANUARY 6, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) Four days before the annual Black Nazarene procession, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) yesterday issued a warning on the structural integrity of MacArthur Bridge which is part of the procession’s route, noting that the structure has minor cracks and is subject for retrofitting.

DPWH Undersecretary Romeo Momo said Catholic devotees joining the translacion activities should only pass through one lane of the bridge to ensure their safety.

“They can make use of the southbound lane. This is the recommendation of DPWH-National Capital Region officials after their meeting with the feast organizers,” he said.

Momo said those participating in the Black Nazarene procession should exercise caution and should not stay too long in the bridge to avoid overcrowding.

“The people must be moving and should not standby in the bridge. There must be marshals for crowd control,” he said.

Last year, the DPWH also declared that one lane of the bridge was off limits because of the heavy load of the thousands of Catholic devotees joining the translacion activities.

•Corroded Bridge

A technical inspection by the DPWH Bureau of Design found out that the MacArthur Bridge, which spans the Pasig River and connects the P. Burgos area to Carriedo Street, has “corroded members which affect its structural integrity.”

Momo said the structure has minor cracks and is subject for retrofitting.

“The bearing plate under the girder needs to be replaced, and there is a study whether its foundation has to undergo retrofitting,” he said.

Apart from the cracks in the bridge, the DPWH official said there are “exposed bars” that can be found in the bridge.

“We are still waiting for the recommendation from our consultant on what to do. Within this month, it will come out,” he said.

“This would be reviewed by Bureau of Design and we would proceed with the procurement process and the bidding for civil works. Maybe by April or May, we can start the civil works for retrofitting,” Momo said.

As expected, police estimated that millions of Catholic devotees would show up again for this year’s Black Nazarene feast, crowding the streets from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church in Manila during the translacion activities.

•Manila Suspends Classes

Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada issued an order suspending classes in all levels in the city on Jan. 9 to give way to the sea of devotees expected to join the procession of the Black Nazarene.

Last Friday, Estrada signed Executive Order No. 41 mandating the suspension of classes in all levels in all universities, colleges and schools in the city after meeting with officials of Task Force Nazareno, which will oversee the peace and order aspects of the annual activity.

“Every year, thousands of pilgrims from all over the country come to Manila to be part of the procession of the Black Nazarene. Millions of people are expected to join the celebration. The suspension of classes in all levels in all universities, colleges and schools in Manila has been recommended for public order and safety,” Executive Order No. 41 said.

•9 Million Devotees

An estimated nine million devotees participated in the annual procession last year, the Manila Police District (MPD) said.

“Every year, the figure increases by 10 to 15 percent especially if the country experiences difficulties. The nine million people last year was the in-and-out figure, which meant there was an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 crowd during the starting vigil and during the mass and another two to three milllion during the procession,” Manila Police District chief of Directorial Staff Senior Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel said.

A total of 6,000 policemen will be deployed for the activity including reinforcements from the National Capital Region Police Office and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

•Palace Assurance

Malacañang assured yesterday that security measures are in place for the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Jan. 9.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the City of Manila is handling the security preparations in coordination with the police.

The Palace official kept mum on the possibility of shutting down mobile phone services anew in areas en route the procession.

“We know that particular measure was implemented because the situation then was different,” Valte said.

She noted that there was no shutdown of mobile phone services on the routes of the procession last year.

•Mobile Phone Shutdown

In 2012, the government asked telecommunication firms to shut down mobile phone services in areas where the Black Nazarene procession would pass through as part of the heightened security measures because of the possible terror threat to disrupt the festivities.

Cellular phones had been used by terrorists to remotely detonate explosives by calling or texting the handset.

•Church Monitoring

Quiapo Church will be using a system that will help monitor the situation outside the church during the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Jan. 9, from its command center.

Through the Protective Services, Safety, Health, Environment and Disaster (PSSHED) System, the command center of the Quiapo Church will easily monitor the situation outside the Church during the Fiesta and to easily communicate with the agencies positioned in their respective areas, which are responsible in keeping peace and order during the fiesta.

The command center will be manned by selected Quiapo Church staff from Quiapo Church Disaster Risk Reduction Ministry and IT Department.

Days before the actual Feast Day, the Quiapo Church already posted the schedule of activities for the annual observance in their website www.quiapochurch.com starting with the procession of the replicas of the Black Nazarene at Quiapo Church on Jan. 7 at 3 p.m.

•‘Pahalik’

The traditional “pahalik” will take place at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta on Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. while the vigil will start at 7 p.m.

On Jan. 9, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle will preside a Mass in Luneta at 6 a.m. to be followed by the procession of the image of the Black Nazarene from Luneta to Quiapo Church at 7:30 a.m.

•Holiday Proposal

Meanwhile, a Manila councilor has proposed that Jan. 9 of each year be made a special non-working holiday in the city in observance of the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

“The Feast of the Black Nazarene is the largest religious festival and procession in our predominantly Catholic nation, where multitudes of loyal devotees take part in strengthening their faith and fulfilling their spiritual vows. The religious nature of the Black Nazarene feast has continually progressed as the years passed, into a Filipino social-cultural celebration and special traditional heritage occasion,” Councilor Don Juan ‘DJ’ Bagatsing said in his proposed ordinance. (With reports from Leslie Ann G. Aquino, Jenny F. Manongdo and Madel Sabater – Namit) by Raymund F. Antonio January 5, 2014

FROM MANILA TIMES

Pope announces first visit to Holy Land, May 24-26 January 5, 2014 8:46 pm

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis said Sunday he will make his first trip to the Holy Land, visiting Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem from May 24 to 26.

“In the climate of joy typical of this Christmas period, I would like to announce that from May 24 to 26, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” Francis told crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square for the traditional Angelus prayer.

Francis said the date of the announcement — January 5 — was significant because it “commemorates the historic meeting between pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople”, 50 years ago.

Their meeting in 1964 in Jerusalem led to the rescinding of the excommunications of 1054 that caused the Great Schism between the churches of the East and West.

During the visit, the pontiff said he would hold an “ecumenical meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem” at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in East Jerusalem, venerated as the place where Jesus was buried.

Francis was invited to visit the Holy Land by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who said he would “walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ”.

The 77-year-old pontiff has made many appeals for peace in the Middle East. During his meeting with Abbas, he called for “a just and lasting solution” to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The pontiff’s visit had been anticipated by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, which said Francis would celebrate a high mass in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

The daily said Israeli authorities were unhappy with the brevity of the visit and the fact that the prelate will not celebrate mass in Israel, but in the West Bank, in the Palestinian territories.

Francis made no mention of plans to hold a mass in Bethlehem in his Sunday announcement.

Unconfirmed information from Roman Catholic sources in the Holy Land had earlier indicated a possible papal visit to a refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan.

The Argentine pontiff’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2009.

Israel and the Vatican first established full diplomatic relations in 1993, but have been engaged in years of thorny diplomatic negotiations over property rights and tax exemptions for the Catholic Church, which have yet to be fully resolved.

The Vatican used the term “State of Palestine” for the first time in January 2013.

The news of the pope’s trip came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Middle East to push a framework for peace talks and broker negotiations which resumed in July after a three-year hiatus.

The Palestinians want borders based on the 1967 lines that existed before the Six-Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank, including now annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

But Israel wants to retain existing settlements it has built inside occupied Palestinian territory since then.
AFP

FROM THE ECUMENICALNEWS.COM

Pope urges atheists to join with believers in quest for world peace Peter Kenny|Wednesday, December 25 2013

Join us in a 'desire that widens the heart", says Pope Francis.


Pope Francis holds the baby Jesus statue at the end of the Christmas night mass in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican December 24, 2013.PHOTO: REUTERS / TONY GENTILE

"We have seen how powerful prayer is," said the pontiff in the address which is closely watched by more than 1.2 billion Roman Catholic faithful and is broadcast globally.

The Pope said he was happy that followers of different religious confessions are joining prayers for peace in Syria.

He praised the "courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world."

At the same time Pope Francis was strongly applauded by the crowd when he called on atheists to join the quest

 for peace.


A visitor takes a video as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal leads a Catholic mass at the Church of St. Catherine, which is connected to the Church of Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas day December 25, 2013.PHOTO: . REUTERS / MOHAMAD TOROKMAN

NON-BELIEVERS

"I invite even non-believers to desire peace," said Francis. "Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace," he said, drawing sustained applause from the crowd."

Francis all asked God to grant peace to the Central African Republic, "often forgotten and overlooked."

The pontiff also asked God to "foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young State."

In Bethlehem the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land celebrated Christmas midnight mass at the Basilica of the Nativity.

In his homily, Patriarch Twal recalled the many crises and conflicts around the world.

"But we must never give in to despair," he said "because Jesus, our Saviour has told us that peace is possible, that the flame of hope remains alive, that justice and reconciliation will come."

Such a painful reality raised several questions about the future of people living in the Holy land causing much concern.

"We need the answer of faith. The answer lies neither in emigration nor in closing in on ourselves. It consists in staying here and in living and dying here.

"Our Land is holy and deserves our attachment to it, for our presence in this land is a divine vocation, a blessing and a privilege. The flame of faith burns strongly here, like the star of the Magi, to guide us. We need the comfort that comes from our absolute faith in the Providence of God."

FROM MANILA TIMES

Pope wants fresh approach to children of gay, divorced parents January 5, 2014 5:40 pm

ROME: Pope Francis has called for a rethink in the way the Catholic Church deals with the children of gay couples and divorced parents, warning against “administering a vaccine against faith”.

“On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which for us are sometimes difficult to understand,” Francis said in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, extracts of which were published on Italian media websites on Saturday.

“The number of children in schools whose parents have separated is very high,” he said, adding that family make-ups were also changing.

“I remember a case in which a sad little girl confessed to her teacher: ‘my mother’s girlfriend doesn’t love me’,” he was quoted as saying.

The pontiff said educational leaders should ask themselves “how can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?”

“We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them,” the 77-year-old added.

Though the Church has often been in conflict with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community over its opposition to same-sex marriage and to homosexuality, Francis has drawn praise for attempts to be inclusive.

In July he reached out to gays, declaring that “if someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”

And in December, the Advocate magazine — dedicated to the gay and lesbian community — chose the head of the Catholic Church as the “single most influential person of 2013 on the lives of LGBT people.”

The reform-minded pontiff has also called an extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops next year to discuss the Church’s position with regard to the family, which is expected to address among other issues the problem of divorcees remarrying and children of divorced parents. AFP


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