PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS WEEK

ARCHBISHOP VILLEGAS: GREAT POPE FRANCIS, BE BLESSED!


Archbishop Soc Villegas urged Filipinos and the faithful on Wednesday to stand by the streets where Pope Francis would pass to welcome the pontiff who will be in the country from January 15 to 19.
Expect to be blessed, the prelate said. “I encourage you my dear people of God to line up the streets he will take, watch the papal vehicle pass by and be blessed by the sight of the Pope passing our way going around the city,” Villegas said in a statement. “Bring out your family images of the saints and the Blessed Virgin. Bring out your Santo Niños and crucifixes. Bring out your heart in welcome!” added Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen and Dagupan and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. Villegas then enumerated the routes the Pope would take during his five-day visit. The archbishop wrote: “Watch the Pope passing by. Christ is passing by. Be blessed as he passes by!”  PHOTOS...

ALSO: Viva il Papa! One more day
A NEW PRESIDENT, 40 ELEPHANTS WELCOME FRANCIS IN SRI LANKA


PHOTO: THICK-SKINNED HONOR GUARD Instead of passing under a traditional Arch of Swords, Pope Francis goes through a gauntlet of pachyderms elaborately dressed for his historic three-day visit to Sri Lanka. The Pope starts his weeklong visit to Asia with a first stop in this island nation where he brought a message of peace, healing and reconciliation after a quarter-century of ethnic civil war. AFP COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—Forty elephants, a new president barely five days into office, and thousands of people welcomed Pope Francis Tuesday to predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka where he is seeking to preach religious and racial harmony in a world where “so many communities are at war with themselves.”  READ FULL REPORT ---POPE IN SRI LANKA VISIT...

ALSO: Gov’t ready if Pope decides to deviate from itinerary —Palace


IN THIS PHOTO President Benigno Aquino III and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas II inspect the security preparations at the Apostolic Nunciature, the LRT 1 Quirino Station, and Villamor Airbase during the dry run of the papal convoy on Tuesday night, January 13. Gil Nartea --The government has been laying down security measures for Pope Francis during his scheduled activities in the Philippine starting Thursday, but what if he decides to deviate from the plan? Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Wednesday that authorities are ready to secure the Pope even if he does not strictly follow the itinerary of his Philippine visit. READ FULL REPORT...


THANKS TO PAPAL VISIT THIS IS Roxas Boulevard on Wednesday, January 14, seen empty of vehicles and pedestrians after the MMDA cleared the area of vendors and parked vehicles in preparation for Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines on January 15-19. Roy Lozano

ALSO: Security ‘nightmare’ for Philippine papal visit


Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – Philippine troops are facing a security “nightmare” during Pope Francis’s visit starting Thursday, with potential stampedes, Islamic militants and lone-wolf assailants all concerns. Nearly 40,000 soldiers and police are being deployed to protect the pontiff during his five-day trip to the Philippines, a majority Catholic nation where attempts have been made to kill visiting popes twice before. “For this year, this will be the greatest security nightmare that we can have,” Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang said as he readied his troops for the pontiff’s arrival. Authorities have stated the huge crowds of devout Catholics are their main worry, with up to six million people expected for a mass in Manila on Sunday. Giant throngs are also expected along his motorcade routes in the capital, while a one-day trip to typhoon-devastated communities in the central Philippines will pose its own problems READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Pope starts 2-nation tour in Asia


(AP) SRI LANKAN WELCOME – While passing a row of elephants, Pope Francis waves to the crowd that lined the streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka, yesterday at the start of a weeklong Asian Tour. The Pontiff said Sri Lanka could not fully heal from a quarter-century of ethnic civil war without pursuing truth for the injustices committed. (AP) Colombo, Sri Lanka — Pope Francis returned to Asia for the second time in his papacy yesterday, beginning his two-nation tour in Sri Lanka where he called for greater respect for human rights, peace and reconciliation after a decades-long civil war. His visit, days after the surprise election of a new president, will focus on unity in a country struggling to heal the wounds of a 37-year conflict that pitted troops against Tamil separatist rebels. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO FROM SRI LANKA: Respect human rights – Pope


PONTIFF IN SRI LANKA Pope Francis greets the crowd upon his arrival in Colombo as he began a twonation Asia tour bearing a message of peace and reconciliation after a long civil war. AFP PHOTO COLOMBO: Pope Francis urged respect for human rights as he began a two-nation Asia tour in a windswept Sri Lanka on Tuesday, bearing a message of peace and reconciliation after a decades-long civil war. His visit, days after the surprise election of a new president, will focus on unity in a country struggling to heal the wounds of a 37-year conflict that pitted troops against Tamil separatists. The Argentine pope’s second visit to Asia will also take in the Philippines, a bastion of Christianity in the region, where he is set to attract one of the biggest-ever gatherings for a head of the Catholic Church. But in mostly Buddhist Sri Lanka, which has seen a rise in religious violence in recent years, he will focus on the role of the Church in a diverse society. READ FULL REPORT...\

Layout of Luneta for Pope Francis' Mass on Sunday; People will be herded into grids at the Luneta during this weekend's mass


IMAGE FROM ABS-CBN TWEETER
ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 01/14/2015 2:39 PM MANILA - Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas on Wednesday presented the layout of Luneta when Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Quirino Grandstand on Sunday, January 18. In a press conference, Roxas said no one will be allowed to camp out in Luneta the night before the Mass, which is expected to start at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. People will only be allowed to enter Luneta starting 6 a.m. Sunday, he said. Thirty units of walk-through metal detector will be set up in the area for security screening, said National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Carmelo Valmoria. According to Roxas, those who will attend the Mass will be grouped into several grids, measuring around 40 by 40 meters each. READ FULL REPORT...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Archbishop: Greet Pope Francis, be blessed

MANILA, IANUARY 15, 2015 (INQUIRER) Archbishop Soc Villegas urged Filipinos and the faithful on Wednesday to stand by the streets where Pope Francis would pass to welcome the pontiff who will be in the country from January 15 to 19.

Expect to be blessed, the prelate said.

“I encourage you my dear people of God to line up the streets he will take, watch the papal vehicle pass by and be blessed by the sight of the Pope passing our way going around the city,” Villegas said in a statement.

“Bring out your family images of the saints and the Blessed Virgin. Bring out your Santo Niños and crucifixes. Bring out your heart in welcome!” added Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen and Dagupan and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Villegas then enumerated the routes the Pope would take during his five-day visit. The archbishop wrote:

On January 15 early in the evening, please welcome the Pope as he leaves Villamor Airbase taking Newport Garden to Andrews Avenue towards Airport Road-Domestic Road to Roxas Boulevard-Quirino Avenue-Leveriza Intersection until Taft Avenue.

On January 16 in the morning, please line up Taft Avenue towards Osmena-Quirino towards Nagtahan Magsaysay Boulevard until J.P. Laurel Malacanang Palace.

From Malacanang on the same day January 16, the Pope will go to Manila Cathedral at around 10:00 am passing General Solano to Casal-Ayala Bridge to Finance Road to Burgos Bonifacio Drive towards Anda Circle reaching Aduana Street and Manila Cathedral.

In the afternoon of January 16, please watch the Pope pass Taft Avenue to Leveriza Intersection-Quirino Avenue to Roxas Boulevard until the Mall of Asia where he will meet the families.

The Pope will be in Leyte on January 17.

On January 18 in the morning, the Pope will go to the University of Santo Tomas passing Quirino-Osmena Highway intersection towards Nagtahan until Espana Boulevard reaching UST. He will take the reverse route from the UST back to the Apostolic Nunciature. Watch him pass by twice that day if you live in the area.

In the afternoon on his way to Luneta, the Pope will pass Quirino Avenue, Roxas Boulevard until he reaches Kalaw Street.

Very early in the morning of January 19, the Pope will transfer to the airport passing Leveriza-Quirino towards Roxas Boulevard to Domestic Road towards Andrews Avenue and the Villamor Airport.

Villegas concluded: “Every step he makes, every car ride he takes, every moment he stays with us is precious for us. Seeing him pass by is a grace. Waving our hands at him in loving welcome is an experience of a lifetime.”

“Watch the Pope passing by. Christ is passing by. Be blessed as he passes by!”



INQUIRER

Viva il Papa! One more day Lito B. Zulueta @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:05 AM | Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

A NEW PRESIDENT, 40 ELEPHANTS WELCOME FRANCIS IN SRI LANKA


THICK-SKINNED HONOR GUARD Instead of passing under a traditional Arch of Swords, Pope Francis goes through a gauntlet of pachyderms elaborately dressed for his historic three-day visit to Sri Lanka. The Pope starts his weeklong visit to Asia with a first stop in this island nation where he brought a message of peace, healing and reconciliation after a quarter-century of ethnic civil war. AFP

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—Forty elephants, a new president barely five days into office, and thousands of people welcomed Pope Francis Tuesday to predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka where he is seeking to preach religious and racial harmony in a world where “so many communities are at war with themselves.”

Aside from Sri Lanka, the Pope will visit on Jan. 15-19 predominantly Catholic Philippines, where he’s expected to draw crowds as large or even bigger than the last visit of Pope, now Saint, John Paul II.

Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans lined up to catch a glimpse of the Pope in his open-air popemobile.

So numerous were the crowds that the popemobile had to crawl through them, delaying the Pope’s itinerary, forcing the cancellation of his meeting with Catholic bishops and leaders at the residence of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjit.

Although the affable Pope turned on the charm and smiled and waved broadly at the people, it was the presence of 40 elephants dressed in brilliant colors lining the street near the airport that particularly delighted him.

Beaming broadly at the elephants, the Pope, who took his papal name after St. Francis of Assisi, a medieval patron saint of animals, nodded delightedly and pointed to them, as if to bless them.

The highlight of the Pope’s visit will be the canonization on Wednesday of Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Oratorian priest from Goa, India, who ministered to persecuted Catholics during the 17th century when Sri Lanka was under the rule of the Calvinist Dutch.

In helping rebuild the Church of Sri Lanka, Vaz also had to learn the languages of the dominant Sinhalese and the minority Tamil, and coupled with his works of mercy for the poor, he is seen by Christians and non-Christians alike as someone who fostered interracial, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue and harmony.

Longest trip

The chartered Alitalia plane of the Pope landed at Colombo International Airport at 8:51 a.m. at the start of his second Asian tour after South Korea last August and the longest trip so far of his barely 2-year-old papacy.

The Holy Father was met by newly sworn-in President Maithripala Sirisena, who won last Thursday’s snap presidential election. The election was called by Mahinda Rajapaksa, who failed to extend his term over corruption scandals that deeply tainted his reputation for having crushed the Hindu Tamil Tiger rebellion in 2009.

Sirisena said that the apostolic visit of the Holy Father was “personally significant” for him since he had just been elected. He said that as new president his “responsibility is to restore freedom, democracy, people power and rule of law for the people and future generations.”

“I seek your blessing for the people of Sri Lanka,” he told the Pope.

Primarily pastoral

The Pope said that his visit was “primarily pastoral,” but it is “also meant to express the Church’s love and concern for all Sri Lankans.”

The Pope lamented “the continuing tragedy in our world that so many communities are at war with themselves.”


Pope Francis, center left, flanked by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, center right, loses his skull-cap due to a blow of wind as he arrives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. Pope Francis arrived in Sri Lanka Tuesday at the start of a weeklong Asian tour saying the island nation can't fully heal from a quarter-century of ethnic civil war without pursuing truth for the injustices committed. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

“The inability to reconcile differences and disagreements, whether old or new, has given rise to ethnic and religious tensions, frequently accompanied by outbreaks of violence.”

He said that Sri Lanka itself knows “the horrors of civil strife” and seeks now to foster better the peace. The Pope said this could be done only “by overcoming evil with good.”

Pope Francis said the great religions of Asia have their roles set out for them.

“Dear friend, I am convinced that the followers of the various religious traditions have an essential role to play in the delicate process of reconciliation and rebuilding which is taking place in this country,” the Pope said. “For that process to succeed, all members of society must work together; all must have a voice.”

In the Pope’s meeting with non-Catholic Christian groups and other religions, Bishop Cletus Chandrasiri Perera, OSB of Ratnapura, who heads the organizing committee of the Pope’s visit, called the visit “a sacred and unique event which goes down in the history of Sri Lanka, and particularly the history of the Catholic Church.”

“Most Holy Father,” he said, “in reality, Sri Lanka is a multi-religious society, the vast majority of the people being adherents of Buddhism. It is a singular honor and joy … to welcome Your Holiness into this interreligious and ecumenical gathering.”

Influential Catholics

Although Christians form only 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population, more than 70 percent belong to the Catholic Church and are considered well-educated and respected members of the society. Catholic education is well-prized.

During the interreligious dialogue, the Pope witnessed the chanting of the ancient pirith prayer by a Buddhist monk, a religious blessing by a Hindi Kurukkal, a blessing by a Muslim Maulavi, and an ecumenical prayer by an Anglican bishop.

The Pope later handed over to the bishops’ conference a replica of a document from the Vatican archives of the “Sannas,” a late 17th century copper engraving issued by King Keerthai Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy permitting the preaching of Christianity and allowing Sinhalese to convert.

Gift from Vatican library

Earlier, in his visit to the presidential palace, the Pope gave President Sirisena a replica of a nautical atlas from the Vatican Library attributed to Bartolome Olivera of the 16th century showing Ceylon, the former name of Sri Lanka.

Dominican missionary friar, Fr. Gaspar Sigaya, said the Pope was seeking to bring about “dialogue among religions and cultures.”

“Amidst diversity of religions, cultures, practices and traditions, the dialogue aims to unify everyone for peace,” explained Sigaya, archivist in Rome of the missionary order of the Dominicans.

Originally posted: 9:00 PM | Tuesday, January 13th, 2015


GMA NEWS NETWORK

Gov’t ready if Pope decides to deviate from itinerary —Palace By ANDREO CALONZO, GMA News January 14, 2015 3:54pm 0 0 0 New (Updated 4:10 p.m.)


IN THIS PHOTO President Benigno Aquino III and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas II inspect the security preparations at the Apostolic Nunciature, the LRT 1 Quirino Station, and Villamor Airbase during the dry run of the papal convoy on Tuesday night, January 13. Gil Nartea --

The government has been laying down security measures for Pope Francis during his scheduled activities in the Philippine starting Thursday, but what if he decides to deviate from the plan?

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Wednesday that authorities are ready to secure the Pope even if he does not strictly follow the itinerary of his Philippine visit.

“The Pope is also known to be a Pope of surprises. Those are part of contingency measures. We know for a fact that the Pope would like to stop sometimes his convoy, and bless children. Kasama na po iyan sa preparations natin,” Lacierda told reporters at a press briefing.

He added that the government made sure that there will be a balance between protecting the Pope, and giving him the opportunity to interact with Filipinos.


Roxas Boulevard on Wednesday, January 14, is seen empty of vehicles and pedestrians after the MMDA cleared the area of vendors and parked vehicles in preparation for Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines on January 15-19. Roy Lozano

“We understand the importance of the Pope to be near his flock. We also told the Church that we hope you understand that we have to protect the Pope, and also the crowd,” Lacierda said.

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday night personally inspected the dry run of the convoy that would secure Pope Francis upon his arrival in the Philippines on Jan. 15.

Aquino joined officials including Interior Secretary Mar Roxas II at the route from Villamor Air Base to the Apostolic Nunciature, radio dzBB's Manny Vargas reported.

He also joined the inspection of the Light Rail Transit station at Quirino Avenue, which is near the papal nunciature where the pope will stay during his visit.

Police in Tacloban on Wednesday have also conducted a dry run for the Pope's arrival on Saturday.

The Pope has deviated from his schedule during his past foreign trips. For instance, during his Israel trip last year, he made an unscheduled stop to pray at the wall separating the country from the West Bank.

Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the head of state of Vatican City, is scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on Thursday. He will hold various activities in Metro Manila and Leyte during his five-day visit.

Thousands of Filipinos are expected to troop to Metro Manila and Leyte to participate in Pope Francis’ activities from January 15 to 19. A three-day holiday has been declared in the National Capital Region due to the papal visit.

Some 17,000 soldiers and 20,000 police officers will protect Pope Francis during Philippine visit. —KG, GMA News


INQUIRER

Security ‘nightmare’ for Philippine papal visit Agence France-Presse 1:02 PM | Wednesday, January 14th, 2015


Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine troops are facing a security “nightmare” during Pope Francis’s visit starting Thursday, with potential stampedes, Islamic militants and lone-wolf assailants all concerns.

Nearly 40,000 soldiers and police are being deployed to protect the pontiff during his five-day trip to the Philippines, a majority Catholic nation where attempts have been made to kill visiting popes twice before.

“For this year, this will be the greatest security nightmare that we can have,” Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang said as he readied his troops for the pontiff’s arrival.

Authorities have stated the huge crowds of devout Catholics are their main worry, with up to six million people expected for a mass in Manila on Sunday.

Giant throngs are also expected along his motorcade routes in the capital, while a one-day trip to typhoon-devastated communities in the central Philippines will pose its own problems.

In a nationally televised address on Monday, President Benigno Aquino pleaded with his countrymen planning to join the crowds to remain calm and avoid creating a stampede that could endanger the pope.

“I ask you, do you want history to record that a tragedy involving the pope happened in the Philippines,” Aquino said.

Aside from a crowd potentially crushing the pope, Aquino also warned that blocking his motorcade would make him an easy target for an assailant.

The president referred to the threat of “terrorism” and an assassination attempt on John Paul II at the Vatican in 1981, as he called on all Filipinos to help protect Francis in the Philippines.

Adding to the concerns, the 78-year-old pontiff has insisted he will not travel in a bullet-proof “popemobile” so can he be closer to his flock.

Highlighting the priority Aquino has placed on security, he personally led a late-night dry run on Tuesday of the motorcade journey that the pope will make from the airport after he arrives — with thousands of police lining the roads.

Assassination plots

There have also been two attempts or plots to kill pontiffs visiting in the Philippines that Aquino did not refer to in his televised address.

On the first-ever papal visit to the Philippines in 1970, Bolivian painter Benjamin Mendoza donned a priest’s fake cassock and swung a knife at Pope Paul VI as he arrived at Manila airport.

Paul VI was wounded but continued his trip without disclosing his injury.

Then, one week before John Paul II’s visit in 1995, police uncovered a plot by foreign Islamist extremists to kill him by bombing his Manila motorcade route.

They then planned to set off explosives on 11 US jetliners over the Pacific Ocean that they hoped would kill thousands.

The plot was detected only because bomb-making material caused smoke at the apartment that was being used to store the explosives.

Pakistani Ramzi Yousef, who carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombings in the United States, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of Al-Qaeda’s most senior figures who planned the September 11, 2001 attacks, were among those involved in the plot.

Aside from foreign extremists, Philippine security forces have for decades struggled to contain local Islamic militants with links to Al-Qaeda.

The most well-known, the Abu Sayyaf, operates mostly on southern islands populated by the nation’s Muslim minority many hundreds of kilometers (miles) from Manila.

But it is accused of carrying out the Philippines’ deadliest terrorist attack, the bombing of a ferry in Manila in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

Senior Abu Sayyaf senior leader Khair Mundos, who was on the US government’s most wanted list, was also arrested while living at an apartment near the Manila airport just seven months ago.

While the government has insisted no specific plots have been detected against the pope, he is undoubtedly a tempting target for Filipino Islamic militants, according to Rommel Banlaoi, director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, a Manila think-tank.

“For violent groups opposed to the rule of the Catholic Church, attacking the pope is like a trophy, a major accomplishment,” Banlaoi told AFP.

“The most challenging threat would come from a lone-wolf attack. It is easier to monitor bad elements coming from identified violent groups.”

Still, Banlaoi said Philippine security forces had proved it could secure visits by popes and US presidents.


MANILA BULLETIN

Pope starts 2-nation tour in Asia by AFP January 14, 2015 Share this:


(AP) SRI LANKAN WELCOME – While passing a row of elephants, Pope Francis waves to the crowd that lined the streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka, yesterday at the start of a weeklong Asian Tour. The Pontiff said Sri Lanka could not fully heal from a quarter-century of ethnic civil war without pursuing truth for the injustices committed. (AP)

Colombo, Sri Lanka — Pope Francis returned to Asia for the second time in his papacy yesterday, beginning his two-nation tour in Sri Lanka where he called for greater respect for human rights, peace and reconciliation after a decades-long civil war.

His visit, days after the surprise election of a new president, will focus on unity in a country struggling to heal the wounds of a 37-year conflict that pitted troops against Tamil separatist rebels.

The Argentine pope’ s second visit to Asia will also take in the Philippines, a bastion of Christianity in the region, where he is set to attract one of the biggest-ever gatherings for a head of the Catholic Church.

But in mostly Buddhist Sri Lanka, which has seen a rise in religious violence in recent years, he will focus on the role of the Church in a diverse society.

“The great work of rebuilding must embrace improving infrastructures and meeting material needs, but also, and even more importantly, promoting human dignity, respect for human rights, and the full inclusion of each member of society,” the pope said on his arrival.

Human rights are a hugely contentious issue in Sri Lanka, which has alienated the international community by refusing to cooperate with a UN-mandated investigation into alleged wartime mass killing of civilians.

‘ PURSUIT OF TRUTH’

“The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth,” said the pope, who was greeted at Colombo’ s main airport by new President Maithripala Sirisena.

Sirisena, who took office only days ago, has promised an independent domestic inquiry into the allegations of wartime rights abuses under his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse.

Only around six percent of the 20-million-strong population is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil ethnic groups.

Sirisena has pledged to protect religious freedoms and promised a new culture of tolerance on the island, which was devastated by the conflict that ended in May 2009.

“All members of society must work together; all must have a voice,” said the pope, who was greeted by flag-waving well-wishers including a group of Muslim schoolgirls as he stepped off the plane onto the red carpet.

Traditional Sri Lankan dancers and drummers lined the red carpet, and around 50 baby elephants decorated with brightly colored fabrics greeted his arrival.

Earlier, the pope told journalists on the plane he was praying for France following attacks by Islamist militants which left 17 people dead.

On Wednesday, which has been declared a national holiday, he will hold a mass on the Colombo seafront that is expected to attract around one million people.

He will canonise Sri Lanka’s first saint, a 17th century missionary, during the open-air service.

He will also visit a small church in the jungle that was on the front lines of the ethnic conflict, which killed around 100,000 people.The Our Lady of Madhu church in the mainly Tamil north provided sanctuary during the fighting, and is now a pilgrimage destination for Christians from across the ethnic divide.

SPECIAL INTEREST IN ASIA

The pope’ s trip comes just five months after he visited South Korea, signaling the huge importance the Vatican places on Asia and its potential for more followers.

The region holds a special interest for Pope Francis, who as a young priest considered becoming a missionary in Japan.

On Thursday he will fly on to the Philippines, where anticipation has been building for months, with the pope dominating the media and sparking a merchandise frenzy.

Francis is the first pope to visit Sri Lanka since John Paul II two decades ago.


MANILA TIMES

Respect human rights – Pope January 13, 2015 10:18 pm IN SRI LANKA


POPE FRANCIS MOTORCADE IN SRI LANKA

COLOMBO --“The great work of rebuilding must embrace . . . promoting human dignity, respect for human rights and the full inclusion of each member of society,” the pope said on his arrival in Colombo.

Human rights are a hugely contentious issue in Sri Lanka, which has alienated the international community by refusing to cooperate with a UN-mandated investigation of alleged wartime mass killing of civilians.

“The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth,” said the pope, battling strong gusts of wind that repeatedly blew his white cape over his head, and at one point took off his skullcap.

He was greeted at Colombo’s main airport by new President Maithripala Sirisena, who took office only days ago.

Sirisena has promised an independent domestic inquiry into the allegations of wartime rights abuses under his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse.

His new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said before the election his government would also ensure a South African-style truth commission.

Only around six percent of the 20-million-strong population is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil ethnic groups.

Sirisena has pledged to protect religious freedoms and promised a new culture of tolerance on the island.

“All members of society must work together; all must have a voice,” Francis said.

The 78-year-old cancelled a meeting with Sri Lankan bishops also on Tuesday after a journey from the airport that lasted well over an hour in an open-top car under the hot sun.

A Vatican spokesman cited the pope’s late arrival in Colombo, but a source working on security arrangements told Agence France-Presse that the pontiff looked “exhausted” after his journey on a route thronged with cheering crowds.

Pope Francis has shunned the pomp of his predecessors, and said he prefers not to use the bulletproof “popemobile” favored by previous pontiffs.

On Wednesday, which has been declared a national holiday, he will hold a Mass on the Colombo seafront that is expected to attract around one million people.

Francis will canonize Sri Lanka’s first saint, a 17th century missionary, during the open-air service.

He will also visit a small church in the jungle that was on the front lines of the ethnic conflict that killed around 100,000 people.

The Our Lady of Madhu church in the mainly Tamil north provided sanctuary during the fighting, and is now a pilgrimage destination for Christians from across the ethnic divide.
AFP


FROM ABS-CBN

Layout of Luneta for Pope Francis' Mass on Sunday; People will be herded into grids at the Luneta during this weekend's mass ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 01/14/2015 2:39 PM


IMAGE FROM ABS-CBN TWEETER

MANILA - Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas on Wednesday presented the layout of Luneta when Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Quirino Grandstand on Sunday, January 18.

In a press conference, Roxas said no one will be allowed to camp out in Luneta the night before the Mass, which is expected to start at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.

People will only be allowed to enter Luneta starting 6 a.m. Sunday, he said.

Thirty units of walk-through metal detector will be set up in the area for security screening, said National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Carmelo Valmoria.

According to Roxas, those who will attend the Mass will be grouped into several grids, measuring around 40 by 40 meters each.

This, he said, is to make sure that there will be space for responders in case of an emergency.

"Ang purpose po niyan ay para may buffer kung magkatulakan man. Iniiwasan natin ang stampede. Ito yung tinatawag na breaker, para kung magkatulakan man, may mapupuntahan ang tao at hindi hanggang sa may masaktan na, may maapakan, madaganan, etc.," Roxas said.

"Pangalawa, para may madaanan ang mga emergency personnel," he added.

He said each grid will be guarded by 8 police personnel, 400 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reservists, 8 to 10 Department of Health (DOH) personnel, 8 to 10 Red Cross volunteers, and two marshals.

Roxas appealed to the public to stay within the grids and keep the streets around Luneta open to allow Pope Francis to go around on board the popemobile.

"Dahil si Pope mismo, nais niyang lumapit sa mga tao, ang plano talaga niya ay iikot siya. So napakahalaga na manatiling bukas ang mga kalye na nakapalibot sa Luneta."

"Pakiusap po natin sa ating mga kababayan na maging mahinahon po tayo at sumunod po tayo sa marshals at sa mga traffic enforcers...nang sa ganun ay si Pope ay makaikot at makalapit sa inyong lahat," he said.

The interior secretary said 30 LED television screens, measuring about 20 by 7 feet each, will be put up in Luneta for the papal Mass.

Meanwhile, the NCRPO chief reminded those who will attend Pope Francis' Mass to bring food and water and keep these in plastic containers.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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