Pope Francis has arrived to church bells across the nation of the Philippines this week, as he flew in to the capital of Manila to meet the nation’s 80 million Roman Catholics. According to reports, Francis smiled as he looked out the window of his plane upon touchdown, as hundreds of children brought to greet him on the tarmac chanted, “Welcome Pope Francis”. The phrase ‘Pope Francis PH’ was even trending worldwide on Twitter!
The highlight of Pope Francis’ visit is to be an open air Mass in Manila on Sunday for up to six million people in Rizal Park. Organisers have said that, if the crowd is as big as expected, it will surpass the previous record for a papal gathering of five million, which was during a mass by John Paul II at the same location in 1995.
If you like big cities Manila is the place for you. It is a high-speed place with food, drink and shopping available 24 hours a day. Technically sixteen cities and one municipality make up what is officially known as Metro Manila covering a vast 636 square kilometres. However, you can explore the key sights in and around Intramuros, the city’s only notable historical enclave, Manila Bay and Makati in just a few days. Manila also prides itself on the quality of its restaurant scene, nightlife and the ability of to have a good time and for many tourists, this will be the scene they fondly remember.
In addition to the open air Mass, Pope Francis has scheduled a Mass in Manila Cathedral as well as a visit to Tacloban, one of the cities in central Philippines, to meet survivors of the typhoon that took place in November 2013. Here he will deliver a mass to tens of thousands of people, before partaking in an intimate lunch with 30 of the typhoon survivors.
As eighty percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Catholic, huge crowds are expected to be in attendance at each part of his visit, and as a result a three-day public holiday has been declared in the capital to help clear the traffic and to give everyone the chance to see him. “Every step he makes, every car ride he takes, every moment he stays with us is precious for us,” Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said as he called on all Filipinos to make an effort to see him. “It’s a blessing to see the pope. That’s why we’re here,” commented school teacher Jeannie Blesado, 35, as she sat on the side the road for more than six hours, before the Pope’s anticipated arrival.