POPE FRANCIS IN SOUTH KOREA: WHAT WOULD WE DIE FOR? 

PHOTO: Pope Francis comforts a disabled woman during his visit to a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities at Kkottongnae in Eumseong, South Korea where he beatified 124 Korean martyrs. SEOUL: Pope Francis beatified 124 early Korean martyrs Saturday at a mass in Seoul and challenged the massive crowd to ask what values would be worth dying for in an increasingly materialistic, globalized world. An estimated 800,000 people, most of them invited church groups from across South Korea, attended the open-air ceremony in hot, humid conditions at Gwanghwamun plaza—the city’s main ceremonial thoroughfare.
The centerpiece of the Pope’s five-day visit, the beatification mass was the subject of a massive security operation, with bridges, roads and subway stations closed, and police snipers posted on the roofs of surrounding office buildings, which had their windows sealed.

According to the Church, around 10,000 Koreans were martyred in the first 100 years after Catholicism was introduced to the peninsula in 1784. “They knew the cost of discipleship . . . and were willing to make great sacrifices,” Francis said in his sermon after the brief beatification ceremony, which gives the martyrs the title “blessed” and marks their first step towards sainthood. “They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for,” he said. Continuing the theme that has dominated his visit, the pope said the lessons to be learned from the martyrs were as important as ever in an era marked more by selfishness and greed than sacrifice. “Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded,” he said. Among the vast crowd, only 200,000 who pre-registered were allowed to pass through dozens of metal detectors placed along a 4.5-kilometer long security ring around the main plaza. Some arrived hours before dawn, and whiled away the time reading the Bible in small groups. South Korea has a fast-growing Catholic community that punches well above its weight in one of Christianity’s most muscular Asian strongholds.* READ MORE...

ALSO: South Koreans Flock To See Pope Francis Mass  

An estimated one million people have gathered to watch Pope Francis deliver a mass in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. During the service, the Pontiff beatified 124 people who died for their beliefs during the early days of Roman Catholicism in the country. More than 30,000 police have been deployed for his five-day visit, including snipers on rooftops. Aerial video footage showed a kilometre-long line of people cramming a route due to be taken by the 'Popemobile'. Some had arrived up to seven hours before the event and most of the worshippers were in place with three hours to go. The people beatified were among those who attempted to spread the religion in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were killed when they came up against resistance from the Joseon Dynasty, which opposed Western influences. The streets leading up to Seoul's iconic Gwanghwamun Gate were packed with onlookers who had turned out to honour the founders of the Korean church.

Police declined to put a number on the size of the crowd but local media said it topped one million. A cheer went up from those assembled when Pope Francis declared the 124 "blessed" - setting them on their way towards possible sainthood. The primary message from his lesson was that of reconciliation. The beatification mass was taking place on the third day of his visit to South Korea. It is his first tour to Asia since he became pope in March 2013. Beatification is the first stage that a person undergoes before they can progress to being made a saint. On Friday, the Pope had a private meeting with some of the survivors of the Sewol ferry disaster and the families of those who died. He also gave a mass in their memory at a football stadium in Daejeon, attended by tens of thousands of people. It is the first visit to South Korea by a pope for 25 years. More than five million of the country's inhabitants - around 10% - are members of the Roman Catholic faith. Earlier, North Korea had test fired five short range missiles.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Pope makes strong, silent anti-abortion statement 

PHOTO: Pope Francis prays in front of white wooden crosses of the unborn children garden during his visit to the "House of Hope" center for disabled in Kkottongnae, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Francis bowed his head in prayer before the monument and spoke with an anti-abortion activist with no arms and no legs. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) SEOUL — Pope Francis has generally avoided hot-button "culture war" issues like abortion, arguing that the church's doctrine on the sanctity of life is well-known and that he'd rather emphasize other aspects of church teaching. But he made a strong, albeit silent anti-abortion statement yesterday during his visit to South Korea, stopping to pray at a monument for aborted babies in a community dedicated to caring for people with the sort of severe genetic disabilities that are often used to justify abortions.

Francis bowed his head in prayer before the monument — a garden strewn with simple white wooden crosses — and spoke with an anti-abortion activist with no arms and no legs. He also spent an hour blessing dozens of disabled Koreans who live in the Kkottongnae community, founded by a priest in the 1970s to take in disabled children and adults abandoned by their families. There is still tremendous stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities in South Korea, and supporters of the Kkottongnae community argue that if it didn't take these people in, no one would. Francis caressed and hugged each of the residents of the community, young and old, and seemed genuinely pleased when one of the elderly residents with cerebral palsy, Kim Inja Cecilia, presented him with an origami crane she folded with her feet. South Korea banned abortion in 1953 with exceptions for rape, incest or severe genetic disorders. The constitutional court upheld the ban in 2012. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Tacloban hotels already fully booked for papal visit 

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—With still five months to go before the scheduled visit here of Pope Francis, hotels in Tacloban are already fully booked, according to the City Tourism Office. “His visit will help us boost our tourism industry aside from the fact that it will be a (spiritually) uplifting experience,”ť said Ruby Balanyanto, the tourism office’s operations officer. She said the authorities were planning to ask boarding houses to accommodate visitors since they did not believe that the 47 hotels in Tacloban could accommodate the throngs of devotees expected to come to see the Holy Father on January 15 to 19.

“We are now doing some coordination with the owners of boarding houses in Tacloban to see if they can accommodate the visitors who are expected to come to the city during the papal visit,” she said. There are more than 200 boarding houses in Tacloban but many of them are still being repaired after being damaged by Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) which all but levelled Tacloban last November. Private homes are also expected to accommodate visitors during the papal visit, the first ever for Eastern Visayas, which is still reeling from the aftermath of Yolanda, the world’s most powerful typhoon to ever hit land. * READ MORE...

ALSO: VIPs, politicians not invited to Pope’s lunch; VIPs, pols not included in planned event 

PHOTO: Pope Francis gives a thumbs-up as disabled children perform for him during his visit to the rehabilitation center for disabled people at Kkottongnae in Eumseong, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. The Pope will lunch with the poor when he visits Tacloban City on Jan. 17, 2015. CEBU CITY, Philippines—Bad news for politicians and rich people who hope to rub elbows with Pope Francis during his first visit to the Philippines in January. The Holy Father has told Archbishop John Du of Palo that he wants to be with the poor and those afflicted by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).

Based on the Pope’s instruction, Francis intends to share a meal with the poor victims of last year’s calamities when he visits Tacloban City, Leyte, on Jan. 17. “He will be sitting side by side with poor people. Simple food will be served and there will be no VIPs,” Du said in an interview on Saturday. “If possible, the Pope wants to stay away from the big people, the VIPs,” he added. Appeal to VIPs --Du appealed to the VIPs not to take center stage during the papal visit. “Please give way to the poor for they are the main reason the Pope will come here,” he said.
Du will select 30 individuals who will dine with the Holy Father. The group, he said, will include five people from northern Cebu, five Boholanos while the rest are from Leyte.* READ MORE...

ALSO: Libyan joins Pinay wife in escape to Manila  

MALTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – The decision of the Libyan husband of a Filipina teacher at the Tripoli International School to join her and their children for repatriation to the Philippines was a difficult one to make. It meant choosing his wife and children over his parents and siblings left behind in Tripoli. Forty-one-year-old Noemi Grace Tabor of Cagayan de Oro, a music teacher, and her husband Farik Farjani, who worked at Brega Petroleum, and their four children – three boys and a girl – initially could not leave the strife-torn nation to join the Philippine government’s repatriation program. Tabor’s in-laws would not allow them to leave the house they shared in Tripoli. She said their strong family ties and the pain of grandparents not seeing the grandchildren were the reasons her in-laws disapproved of their decision to leave Tripoli. But when the situation became increasingly dangerous, they finally decided to repatriate. “This is the choice and it’s very painful for us. They were crying,” Tabor told The STAR yesterday morning while waiting here to board the Philippine Air Lines (PAL) flight to Manila chartered by the Philippine government.

Tabor and her family were among the group of 419 Filipinos evacuated from Libya. Their house in Tripoli was hit left and right by bullets and their neighbor’s house was not spared from rockets. “Most of the fighters were not trained because they are teenagers,” she said. “It’s no longer safe for the children. It’s not the right place to raise your children.” Classes in Tripoli were also disrupted and school days were shortened because of the worsening situation. When she arrived in Tripoli in 2012 with her children, she and her husband were hopeful things would get better with a functioning government after the fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. But two weeks ago, she and her husband temporarily moved to her sister-in-law’s house in Zliten, a 45-minute drive from Tripoli, for the safety of their children. She added that they had to keep from her in-laws their decision to leave Libya and relovate to Cagayan de Oro. “We had to go there by ourselves. I can’t leave my husband because my daughter has special needs,” she said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino can’t decide on RP peacekeepers in Liberia, Golan Heights, exec admits   

President Aquino wants a detailed assessment of how safe Filipino peacekeepers are in Liberia and Golan Heights in the midst of security and health threats in those areas, a Palace official said. It was reported that the Department of National Defense (DND) made a recommendation for the pullout of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights and Liberia because of increasing tensions in the Middle East and the spread of Ebola virus in Africa. “I had a chance to speak to the President about this lately and ang sabi we’re still trying to see what are the available protection for our soldiers who are there,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday. Valte said her impression is that the President has not made a decision yet whether to bring home the peacekeepers or retain them there. But Valte said it is the President’s paramount concern to ensure the safety of Filipino soldiers deployed overseas for peacekeeping missions. Recently, a Filipino peacekeeper was injured while performing his duties in the Golan Heights because of deteriorating security conditions there. In Africa, there are also concerns on the safety of peacekeepers as the Ebola virus continues to ravage several African countries such and Liberia and Sierra Leone, which already posted many casualties. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is the one coordinating with the United Nations when there are certain concerns on the country’s peacekeepers, she added. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Palace fixation sidelines moro woes  

A Catholic group on Saturday urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to first solve the problem in Mindanao instead of seeking another term by amending the Constitution. Advocacy group Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response said that many vital issues and problems in Mindanao are being sidelined given because of the administration’s premature obsession with the 2016 national elections.“This early, our government’s attention is unfortunately fixed on the elections in 2016,” PCPR Secretary General Nardy Sabino said in a press statement. Sabino said PNoy must prioritize importan concerns like the one involving the “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.”

The PCRP also lamented that representatives of the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front have yet to see eye to eye regarding the decades-long peace problem in the Muslim south. “We hope the issue will not reach a deadlock and bring about a possible armed conflict while developments are not forthcoming,” the PCPR said. He expects both sides will come to a resolution before Aquino’s term draws to a close. “The logical consequence of poverty and injustice is war. As long as there’s poverty and injustice, there will be war,” Sabino explained. Since Aquino wields most power, it is incumbent upon the chief executive to initiate lasting reforms, which will finally root out the causes of armed struggle in Mindanao, Sabino said.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

ALSO: ‘Yellow army’ regroups to counter anti-Noy rally   

AFTER years of keeping quiet, the “yellow ribbon army” has regrouped and will announce the launch of the Koalisyon ng Mamamayan Para sa Reporma (KOMPRe) on Aug. 25 to counter the public outrage over scandals that are hounding the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. The formation of the new pro-administration group is also aimed at countering a huge anti-pork barrel rally in Luneta on the same day, and defuse calls to impeach President Aquino. The rally in Luneta will mark the first anniversary of the Million People March, which was triggered last year by outrage over revelations about the P10 billion pork barrel scam.

The rally will be spearheaded by #ScrapPork Network, #AbolishPork Movement, bloggers, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, church-backed organizations, bishops, priests and nuns, and other personalities. KOMPRe, on the other hand, will not hold a huge rally but a “conference of leaders,” said Leah Navarro, a founding member of the pro-Aquino Black and White Movement. Navarro said the Black and White Movement, along with civil society and non-government organizations like Code NGO, political parties like Akbayan and Aksyon Demokratiko will join forces and hold a meeting on Aug. 25. * CONTINUE READING...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Pope Francis in South Korea: ‘What would we die for?’


Pope Francis comforts a disabled woman during his visit to a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities at Kkottongnae in Eumseong, South Korea where he beatified 124 Korean martyrs. AFP PHOTO

SEOUL, AUGUST 18, 2014 (MANILA TIMES) Pope Francis beatified 124 early Korean martyrs Saturday at a mass in Seoul and challenged the massive crowd to ask what values would be worth dying for in an increasingly materialistic, globalized world.

An estimated 800,000 people, most of them invited church groups from across South Korea, attended the open-air ceremony in hot, humid conditions at Gwanghwamun plaza—the city’s main ceremonial thoroughfare.

The centerpiece of the Pope’s five-day visit, the beatification mass was the subject of a massive security operation, with bridges, roads and subway stations closed, and police snipers posted on the roofs of surrounding office buildings, which had their windows sealed.

According to the Church, around 10,000 Koreans were martyred in the first 100 years after Catholicism was introduced to the peninsula in 1784.

“They knew the cost of discipleship . . . and were willing to make great sacrifices,” Francis said in his sermon after the brief beatification ceremony, which gives the martyrs the title “blessed” and marks their first step towards sainthood.

“They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for,” he said.

Continuing the theme that has dominated his visit, the pope said the lessons to be learned from the martyrs were as important as ever in an era marked more by selfishness and greed than sacrifice.

“Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded,” he said.

Among the vast crowd, only 200,000 who pre-registered were allowed to pass through dozens of metal detectors placed along a 4.5-kilometer long security ring around the main plaza.

Some arrived hours before dawn, and whiled away the time reading the Bible in small groups.

South Korea has a fast-growing Catholic community that punches well above its weight in one of Christianity’s most muscular Asian strongholds.

* As the sun rose, Gwanghwamun boulevard was already crammed with people for a one-kilometer stretch north of City Hall.

The papal stage, topped with a giant cross, stood at the top of the boulevard, backed by the giant tiled roof of the Joseon dynasty Gyeongbokgung Palace.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, unrepentant Catholics were generally paraded from Gwanghwamun southwest to Seosomun Gate where they were publicly executed.

Pope Francis began the day at a martyrs’ shrine at Seosomun and then made the journey of the condemned in reverse to Gwanghwamun, riding in an open-topped vehicle and waving to the ecstatic crowds on either side.

“It was so moving. The Pope felt like such a caring, kind grandfather-figure,” Lee Young-Hee, a 58-year-old housewife, said.

“My heart is swelling. The weather was hot but all I could feel was happiness,” she said.

Comforts ferry disaster relatives

Organizers had been concerned about the relatives of victims of April’s Sewol ferry disaster, who have been camped out in Gwanghwamun for weeks to push their campaign for a full independent inquiry into the tragedy, which claimed 300 lives—most of them schoolchildren.

In the end, 600 family members were invited to attend the mass, effectively incorporating the protest into the event.

As he passed by, the pope stopped and stepped down from his vehicle to greet the relatives, including Kim Young-Oh, whose daughter died in the disaster and who has been on a hunger strike for more than one month.

“I am a Buddhist but I think the Pope can help us,” said Choi Keum-Bok, a construction worker who lost his son in the disaster.

After the mass, the pope toured a hilltop community for the sick and disabled in Kkottongnae, around 80 kilometers south of Seoul.

The sprawling facility has been held up as a model of the Church’s commitment to the vulnerable and marginalized, although critics say it ghettoises its residents.

Set up in the 1970s by a Catholic priest, it has been tainted in recent years by allegations of embezzlement, though nothing has been proved.

A staunch opponent of abortion, Pope Francis stopped and prayed in a memorial garden for aborted fetuses, dotted with hundreds of symbolic white crosses. AFP

FROM ORANGE.CO.UK

South Koreans Flock To See Pope Francis Mass

An estimated one million people have gathered to watch Pope Francis deliver a mass in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

During the service, the Pontiff beatified 124 people who died for their beliefs during the early days of Roman Catholicism in the country.

More than 30,000 police have been deployed for his five-day visit, including snipers on rooftops.

Aerial video footage showed a kilometre-long line of people cramming a route due to be taken by the 'Popemobile'.

Some had arrived up to seven hours before the event and most of the worshippers were in place with three hours to go.

The people beatified were among those who attempted to spread the religion in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were killed when they came up against resistance from the Joseon Dynasty, which opposed Western influences.

The streets leading up to Seoul's iconic Gwanghwamun Gate were packed with onlookers who had turned out to honour the founders of the Korean church.

Police declined to put a number on the size of the crowd but local media said it topped one million.

A cheer went up from those assembled when Pope Francis declared the 124 "blessed" - setting them on their way towards possible sainthood. The primary message from his lesson was that of reconciliation.

The beatification mass was taking place on the third day of his visit to South Korea.

It is his first tour to Asia since he became pope in March 2013.

Beatification is the first stage that a person undergoes before they can progress to being made a saint.

On Friday, the Pope had a private meeting with some of the survivors of the Sewol ferry disaster and the families of those who died.

He also gave a mass in their memory at a football stadium in Daejeon, attended by tens of thousands of people.

It is the first visit to South Korea by a pope for 25 years. More than five million of the country's inhabitants - around 10% - are members of the Roman Catholic faith.

Earlier, North Korea had test fired five short range missiles.

FROM PHILSTAR

Pope makes strong, silent anti-abortion statement By Nicole Winfield (Associated Press) | Updated August 17, 2014 - 3:34am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Pope Francis prays in front of white wooden crosses of the unborn children garden during his visit to the "House of Hope" center for disabled in Kkottongnae, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Francis bowed his head in prayer before the monument and spoke with an anti-abortion activist with no arms and no legs. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

SEOUL — Pope Francis has generally avoided hot-button "culture war" issues like abortion, arguing that the church's doctrine on the sanctity of life is well-known and that he'd rather emphasize other aspects of church teaching.

But he made a strong, albeit silent anti-abortion statement yesterday during his visit to South Korea, stopping to pray at a monument for aborted babies in a community dedicated to caring for people with the sort of severe genetic disabilities that are often used to justify abortions.

Francis bowed his head in prayer before the monument — a garden strewn with simple white wooden crosses — and spoke with an anti-abortion activist with no arms and no legs.

He also spent an hour blessing dozens of disabled Koreans who live in the Kkottongnae community, founded by a priest in the 1970s to take in disabled children and adults abandoned by their families. There is still tremendous stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities in South Korea, and supporters of the Kkottongnae community argue that if it didn't take these people in, no one would.

Francis caressed and hugged each of the residents of the community, young and old, and seemed genuinely pleased when one of the elderly residents with cerebral palsy, Kim Inja Cecilia, presented him with an origami crane she folded with her feet.

South Korea banned abortion in 1953 with exceptions for rape, incest or severe genetic disorders. The constitutional court upheld the ban in 2012.

* Activists, however, say authorities turned a blind eye to abortions for decades until cracking down in recent years due to South Korea's low birthrate, one of the lowest in the world. During the 1970s and 1980s, South Korea's government saw big families as an obstacle to economic growth and encouraged families to have no more than two children.

Francis referred to the "culture of death" afflicting South Korea during his homily on Friday. But generally, he has shied away from making headline-grabbing anti-abortion statements, much to the dismay of conservative Catholics who had been emboldened by the frequent denunciations of abortion by two previous popes.

In a 2013 interview with a Jesuit journal, Francis acknowledged that he had been "reprimanded" for not pressing the issue. But he said it wasn't necessary to harp about abortion all the time.

"The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently," Francis said at the time. "We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."

A day after the interview was published, though, Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the more doctrine-minded conservatives in the church, denouncing abortions as a symptom of today's "throw-away culture" and encouraging Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Tacloban hotels already fully booked for papal visit By Joey A. Gabieta |Inquirer Visayas8:39 pm | Saturday, August 16th, 2014


Pope Francis. AP FILE PHOTO

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—With still five months to go before the scheduled visit here of Pope Francis, hotels in Tacloban are already fully booked, according to the City Tourism Office.

“His visit will help us boost our tourism industry aside from the fact that it will be a (spiritually) uplifting experience,”ť said Ruby Balanyanto, the tourism office’s operations officer.

She said the authorities were planning to ask boarding houses to accommodate visitors since they did not believe that the 47 hotels in Tacloban could accommodate the throngs of devotees expected to come to see the Holy Father on January 15 to 19.

“We are now doing some coordination with the owners of boarding houses in Tacloban to see if they can accommodate the visitors who are expected to come to the city during the papal visit,” she said.

There are more than 200 boarding houses in Tacloban but many of them are still being repaired after being damaged by Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) which all but levelled Tacloban last November.

Private homes are also expected to accommodate visitors during the papal visit, the first ever for Eastern Visayas, which is still reeling from the aftermath of Yolanda, the world’s most powerful typhoon to ever hit land.

* The Archdiocese of Palo has yet to announce the venue of the Pope’s Mass. The venues being considered are the government center in Palo town and a paved area near the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban.

The town of Palo is considered the seat of Catholicism in Eastern Visayas because this is where the archdiocese’s cathedral is located and this is where the archbishop resides.

Pinky Cinco, manager of the Leyte Park hotel, said that it was getting ready for the papal visit and has received inquiries from abroad for room accommodation.

“We are getting inquiries from the States. Some of them are from Taclobanons who will come here not only for the papal visit but also to visit the city after Yolanda,” Cinco said.

She said they were planning to convert their function rooms and six dorms into rooms that could be used by tourists because they anticipate that their 86 rooms and six villas would not be enough.

VIPs, politicians not invited to Pope’s lunch; VIPs, pols not included in planned event By Ador S. Mayol |Inquirer Visayas1:40 am | Monday, August 18th, 2014


Pope Francis gives a thumbs-up as disabled children perform for him during his visit to the rehabilitation center for disabled people at Kkottongnae in Eumseong, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. The Pope will lunch with the poor when he visits Tacloban City on Jan. 17, 2015. AP PHOTO/AHN YOUNG-JOON

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Bad news for politicians and rich people who hope to rub elbows with Pope Francis during his first visit to the Philippines in January.

The Holy Father has told Archbishop John Du of Palo that he wants to be with the poor and those afflicted by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).

Based on the Pope’s instruction, Francis intends to share a meal with the poor victims of last year’s calamities when he visits Tacloban City, Leyte, on Jan. 17.

“He will be sitting side by side with poor people. Simple food will be served and there will be no VIPs,” Du said in an interview on Saturday.

“If possible, the Pope wants to stay away from the big people, the VIPs,” he added.

Appeal to VIPs

Du appealed to the VIPs not to take center stage during the papal visit.

“Please give way to the poor for they are the main reason the Pope will come here,” he said.

Du will select 30 individuals who will dine with the Holy Father. The group, he said, will include five people from northern Cebu, five Boholanos while the rest are from Leyte.

* Yolanda devastated the Visayan region on Nov. 8 last year, killing some 6,300 people with 1,060 still others missing. The typhoon damaged property and public structures worth more than P25 billion.

Tacloban was the hardest hit area. Bohol, on the other hand, was hit by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 15 last year, which killed at least 200 people.

Lone survivor

Du said one person in Leyte “lost all his loved ones in the Super typhoon.”

“He was the only survivor and he will stay right beside the Pope so he will be reminded that he’s not alone, that the Pope may be able to comfort him,” Du said.

Francis is to visit the Philippines on Jan. 15 to 19. He will visit Leyte on Jan. 17 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. His complete itinerary is to be announced later this year.

Under the present schedule, the Pope is not likely to drop by Cebu, which will celebrate the feast of the Sto. Nińo on Jan. 18, Du said.

“Pope Francis was invited to come to Cebu but he said he’s not coming for a fiesta. He said he doesn’t intend to make any side trips because the only reason he will come to the country is to be with the poor, the victims of Yolanda,” the archbishop said.

Changes possible?

Du said he wanted the Pope to visit the Queen City of the South but only Manila and Leyte are in the Pope’s itinerary for now.

“I love the Holy Father to come to Cebu, the cradle of Christianity in the Far East. The Sto. Nińo is very significant to the whole Philippines. Sometimes, the Holy Father deviates from his schedule. Who knows? Maybe there will be changes in the schedule,” he said.

Du said the Archdiocese of Palo, which has ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the entire island of Leyte, was now busy preparing for the six-and-a-half-hour papal visit.

“He wants to give them comfort, mercy and compassion. The Pope would like these people to feel the mercy of God, that they are not alone, that they are not being left out or abandoned. Instead, they are loved and He’s one with them in their sufferings,” he said.

“The Pope said ‘Give me time to be with the poor.’ He’s telling the rich people that ‘if they want, they could assist me’ [in serving the poor]. The poor are close to the heart of the Holy Father and Jesus,” Du added.

Center for the Poor

During his visit to Leyte, the Pope will hold an open-air Mass at the Tacloban airport at 10 a.m. Then he will proceed to the archbishop’s residence to dine with the poor. Afterward, the Pontiff will bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor—a project financed by the Vatican for the care of the elderly, the orphans and the less privileged.

After the blessing, Pope Francis will go to Palo Metropolitan Cathedral to address the clergy and the religious congregations.

He will also bless the newly refurbished Palo Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration, which was ruined by Yolanda.

The Pope will fly to Manila after the event at Palo Cathedral.

Roads widened

“Pope Francis’ visit to Palo will only be short because our airport is not capable of bringing him back to Manila in the evening,” Du said.

He said the local government of Leyte was now widening the roads where the Pope would pass. These roads stretch for 11 kilometers from the airport to Palo.

The local church, on the other hand, is preparing for an open air papal Mass at the Tacloban airport.

“There are no special preparations. Everything should be simple,” Du said.

Popemobile ready

A “Popemobile”—the Pope’s custom-built, bulletproof vehicle—will be provided by church counterparts in Manila.

“We’re actually 70 percent ready in terms of physical preparations, although Leyte is not yet totally rehabilitated,” Du said. “On the spiritual aspect, we’re preparing our people to develop the idea of mercy and compassion, which is the theme of Pope Francis’ papacy.”

The archbishop anticipates the possibility that Francis will go down from his Popemobile to interact with the poor.

“He’s even planning to visit those in the slum area and those who are homeless until now. His representatives told me that if the Holy Father will go down from the Popemobile, I simply have to accompany him,”ť Du said.

While many would want to see the Pope in person, Du said Leyte would want to minimize visitors from neighboring regions as much as possible.

“We actually don’t have enough accommodations or hotels where they could stay,” the archbishop said.–With a report from Inquirer Research

Libyan joins Pinay wife in escape to Manila By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 17, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Filipina teacher Noemi Grace Tabor and her children wait for their flight to Manila at the Malta International Airport yesterday. They were expected to arrive last night.

MALTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – The decision of the Libyan husband of a Filipina teacher at the Tripoli International School to join her and their children for repatriation to the Philippines was a difficult one to make.

It meant choosing his wife and children over his parents and siblings left behind in Tripoli.

Forty-one-year-old Noemi Grace Tabor of Cagayan de Oro, a music teacher, and her husband Farik Farjani, who worked at Brega Petroleum, and their four children – three boys and a girl – initially could not leave the strife-torn nation to join the Philippine government’s repatriation program.

Tabor’s in-laws would not allow them to leave the house they shared in Tripoli. She said their strong family ties and the pain of grandparents not seeing the grandchildren were the reasons her in-laws disapproved of their decision to leave Tripoli.

But when the situation became increasingly dangerous, they finally decided to repatriate. “This is the choice and it’s very painful for us. They were crying,” Tabor told The STAR yesterday morning while waiting here to board the Philippine Air Lines (PAL) flight to Manila chartered by the Philippine government.

Tabor and her family were among the group of 419 Filipinos evacuated from Libya.

Their house in Tripoli was hit left and right by bullets and their neighbor’s house was not spared from rockets.

“Most of the fighters were not trained because they are teenagers,” she said. “It’s no longer safe for the children. It’s not the right place to raise your children.”

Classes in Tripoli were also disrupted and school days were shortened because of the worsening situation.

When she arrived in Tripoli in 2012 with her children, she and her husband were hopeful things would get better with a functioning government after the fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

But two weeks ago, she and her husband temporarily moved to her sister-in-law’s house in Zliten, a 45-minute drive from Tripoli, for the safety of their children.

She added that they had to keep from her in-laws their decision to leave Libya and relovate to Cagayan de Oro.

“We had to go there by ourselves. I can’t leave my husband because my daughter has special needs,” she said.

* Zliten was the nearest they could think of to proceed to Misrata, where they would board the ship chartered by the Philippine government to fetch the Filipinos in Libya and bring them to Malta for their flight to Manila.

Her husband had to go to the Philippine embassy in Tripoli to apply for a visa so he could join her and their children. Tabor said she has also been coordinating with the Philippine government’s Rapid Response Team (RRT).

Traveling by land, Tabor said they were stopped at checkpoints and would hear armed men and militia saying to let them go because they have children with them.

She said even if her husband is a Libyan national, it was not easy for them to pass checkpoints as everyone was suspected of smuggling firearms.

“My husband is thankful to the Philippine government for bringing Filipinos out of harm and accepting a foreign national like him in the repatriation program,” she said.

The government assured Filipinos and those who have yet to avail themselves of the mandatory repatriation program of the continuing assistance of the Philippine government under the RRT, composed of members from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Missing Filipino

Meanwhile, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) evacuated from Libya arrived at Malta airport yesterday but went missing before the plane chartered by the Philippine government departed for Manila.

Rodrigo Andres was among the 766 Filipinos from Libya evacuated by sea on a ship from Malta that was chartered by the government.

OWWA officer Mario Antonio said Andres was among the second group of Filipinos to board flight PR 9007 to Manila at 7:30 p.m. (Manila time).

But Maltese airport officials informed Antonio and PAL crewmembers that one passenger was missing.

They said Andres checked in at the airport with his luggage but he did not show up at the immigration.

The crewmembers repeatedly announced Andres’ name over the public address system but he did not respond.

The plane departed 40 minutes behind the schedule without Andres. – Helen Flores, Sheila Crisosotomo

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Aquino can’t decide on RP peacekeepers in Liberia, Golan Heights, exec admits Written by Tribune Wires Sunday, 17 August 2014 00:00

President Aquino wants a detailed assessment of how safe Filipino peacekeepers are in Liberia and Golan Heights in the midst of security and health threats in those areas, a Palace official said.

It was reported that the Department of National Defense (DND) made a recommendation for the pullout of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights and Liberia because of increasing tensions in the Middle East and the spread of Ebola virus in Africa.

“I had a chance to speak to the President about this lately and ang sabi we’re still trying to see what are the available protection for our soldiers who are there,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday.

Valte said her impression is that the President has not made a decision yet whether to bring home the peacekeepers or retain them there.

But Valte said it is the President’s paramount concern to ensure the safety of Filipino soldiers deployed overseas for peacekeeping missions.

Recently, a Filipino peacekeeper was injured while performing his duties in the Golan Heights because of deteriorating security conditions there.

In Africa, there are also concerns on the safety of peacekeepers as the Ebola virus continues to ravage several African countries such and Liberia and Sierra Leone, which already posted many casualties.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is the one coordinating with the United Nations when there are certain concerns on the country’s peacekeepers, she added.

Despite the recent outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the 30 United Nations Police serving as Peacekeepers in Liberia are relatively safe and uninfected, a Philippine National Police (PNP) official recently said.

According to Police Chief Superintendent Alexander Ignacio, the PNP Director for Plans, the Contingent Commander to United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was directed to render daily update on health status of the PNP contingent members regarding the Ebola Virus outbreak.

“UNMIL Contingent Commander, Police Superintendent Gerardo B Avengoza, was also tasked to render incident report of Ebola Virus directly to Abuja, Philippine Embassy, copy furnished to National Council for United Nations Peace Operations, Department of Local and Interior Government, and DPL” said Ignacio in a statement.

Although there have been no reports of any suspected or confirmed Ebola cases among UN police contingents, the PNP assures that its personnel in Liberia are following the Ebola Advisory (MIS-110/2014) from Abuja, Philippine Embassy and the Information Circular no. 2014/023 from UNMIL.

In the issued Ebola Advisory and Information Circular, peacekeeping members are advised to strictly observe the issued prevention guidelines such as avoiding direct physical contact with infected or deceased persons, washing hands frequently with soap and water and other basic precautionary actions.

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MHSW) of Liberia on July 7 2014, 62 confirmed cases of EVD were reported in Liberia affecting three countries: Lofa, Montserrado and Margibi.

For the second epidemic, this brings the cumulative number of cases to 130 (confirmed, probable, suspected) with 37 deaths confirmed.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Palace fixation sidelines moro woes  By Vito Barcelo | Aug. 17, 2014 at 12:01am

A Catholic group on Saturday urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to first solve the problem in Mindanao instead of seeking another term by amending the Constitution.

Advocacy group Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response said that many vital issues and problems in Mindanao are being sidelined given because of the administration’s premature obsession with the 2016 national elections.

“This early, our government’s attention is unfortunately fixed on the elections in 2016,” PCPR Secretary General Nardy Sabino said in a press statement.

Sabino said PNoy must prioritize importan concerns like the one involving the “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.”

The PCRP also lamented that representatives of the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front have yet to see eye to eye regarding the decades-long peace problem in the Muslim south.

“We hope the issue will not reach a deadlock and bring about a possible armed conflict while developments are not forthcoming,” the PCPR said.

He expects both sides will come to a resolution before Aquino’s term draws to a close.

“The logical consequence of poverty and injustice is war. As long as there’s poverty and injustice, there will be war,” Sabino explained.

Since Aquino wields most power, it is incumbent upon the chief executive to initiate lasting reforms, which will finally root out the causes of armed struggle in Mindanao, Sabino said.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

‘Yellow army’ regroups to counter anti-Noy rally By Christine F. Herrera | Aug. 18, 2014 at 12:01am

AFTER years of keeping quiet, the “yellow ribbon army” has regrouped and will announce the launch of the Koalisyon ng Mamamayan Para sa Reporma (KOMPRe) on Aug. 25 to counter the public outrage over scandals that are hounding the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The formation of the new pro-administration group is also aimed at countering a huge anti-pork barrel rally in Luneta on the same day, and defuse calls to impeach President Aquino.

The rally in Luneta will mark the first anniversary of the Million People March, which was triggered last year by outrage over revelations about the P10 billion pork barrel scam.

The rally will be spearheaded by #ScrapPork Network, #AbolishPork Movement, bloggers, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, church-backed organizations, bishops, priests and nuns, and other personalities.

KOMPRe, on the other hand, will not hold a huge rally but a “conference of leaders,” said Leah Navarro, a founding member of the pro-Aquino Black and White Movement.

Navarro said the Black and White Movement, along with civil society and non-government organizations like Code NGO, political parties like Akbayan and Aksyon Demokratiko will join forces and hold a meeting on Aug. 25.

* Sources said others who will be at the conference are the Hyatt 10 and showbiz celebrities.

“The August 25 event is an attempt to consolidate the LP-Black and White-Akbayan flank. At the minimum, to show support for Aquino amid DAP corruption issues. This is also likely a part of the ‘one more term’ plan. They will provide the public ‘clamor’ that Aquino needs to push for Charter change,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

“The yellow cheerleaders will push for the continuation of so-called reforms under Aquino. The subtext is to support ‘one more term.’ And it falls on the same day as the anti-pork rally in Luneta. It is a counterfoil to the mass action,” Reyes said.

Navarro denied the allegation.

“Contrary to Bayan’s claims (why would they be privy to our plans, they stand apart from us), we have been planning this conference for quite some time, long before their call for a Luneta rally,” Navarro said.

Reyes said as early as July, a Facebook group called “One More Term for Pinoy” emerged.

“We didn’t take it too seriously. We thought it was to counter the impeachment complaints against the President,” he said.

“Then Aquino asks public to wear yellow ribbon. Then Mar Roxas came out to say he favors one more term for Pnoy. Then we got information that a yellow rally is being organized by persons identified with Hyatt 10, Black and White, LP. First information we got was Aug. 25, in time for our Million People March,” Reyes said.

“Then Aquino says he will listen to his bosses on issue of a second term and the yellow rally will create the ‘clamor’ for this second term,” he added.

Navarro said Charter change was not on the conference agenda, but acknowledged that “it may come up.”

“We are supportive of the reform agenda of President Aquino and his administration. We are biased toward building on these reforms, not tearing down institutions. The discussion on Charter change is not on our agenda, but since this is a conference, it may come up,” she said.

Asked why they kept quiet for many years, Navarro said: “We have been quiet as far as media attractive events because we find it more productive and supportive to be working on reforms together and in partnership with the Aquino administration rather than being noisy in the streets trying to bring down the government.”

“Do remember that we campaigned for the President because we support his social contract with our people? We wish to help him and his administration institutionalize reforms in its final two years,” Navarro said.

Navarro said leftist groups were worried about obsolescence because they would become irrelevant once there are fewer poor and more educated Filipinos.

“We are working to make these reforms a reality,” Navaro said.

But Elizabeth Angsioco, president of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, said one year after attending the Luneta rally, it was clear that the pork barrel system involved more than just the three opposition senators who were charged with plunder and jailed, but included billions of pesos of the people’s money in programs such as the President’s Disbursement Acceleration Program and his lump sum funds.

“It’s been a year after the Million People March that demanded an end to the pork barrel system. Yet, the problem not only remains, it has become even more complicated,” Angsioco said.

“It has also become clearer that President Noynoy Aquino has no intention of pursuing corruption-tainted officials who happen to be his friends,” Angsioco said.

“The Million People March’s demand was clear: people want all forms of pork to go. It seems to have fallen on deaf ears, however,” she said.

“This means that the people should not stop exacting accountability from government. This means people must continue to demand that the President do as he should. This means that the people’s voice should become louder and stronger. It means carrying the struggle beyond social media and the streets but to the ballot in 2016,” Angsioco added.

Even as early as now, Angsioco said, voters must cross out those implicated in the pork barrel scandal with a big X.

“We should all send the message that we will reject all whose names are tainted with corruption. The ballot is the people’s ultimate defense. This must be used against those who do not listen to their bosses,” Angsioco said.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casińo called on all opponents of pork barrel, Charter change and term extension to stand up and be counted on Aug. 25.

Casińo said the day of protest will not only be confined to Luneta but will also include key cities nationwide.

“It is important that Aquino hears the voice of the bosses. Our rejection of term extension or a second term should be as resounding and unmistakable as our earlier rejection of pork and corruption. Let the president hear the protest of the people. Let him hear us as we say NO WAY! to another dictatorship” Casińo said.

“We will not rest until Aquino’s dictatorial scheme is finally and convincingly defeated by the people. There should be no let up in the tidal wave of public opinion that is opposed to Aquino’s self-serving goals,” he added.

The former partylist representative also warned lawmakers in the House and Senate that the public will not forget the politicians who would seek Charter change and allow an Aquino second term.

“Those politicians are courting disaster. They are also showing the public how rotten our political system is, that laws are being changed only for personal gain and for narrow interests,” Casińo said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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