CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said he received a request from the Vatican to move the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) slated in Cebu City to an earlier date: January 25 to 31, instead of May 23 to 29.
“Two weeks ago, we received a letter from (Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee on the International Eucharistic Congress) asking us if we could move the event to the second preferred date because the pope has another schedule in May,” Palma said in an article on the CBCP website on Wednesday.
“We told them that January is fine because our suggestion was to make the pope’s visit to the Philippines a priority,” he added.
The Philippines had already started preparations for hosting the event, which is expected to draw thousands of laity and Church leaders from around the world.
Held every four years, the 51st International Eucharistic Congress 2016 will reflect on the theme “Christ in You: Our Hope of Glory.”
Meanwhile, Palma called on the Filipino faithful to continue praying Pope Francis will indeed make a papal visit to the Philippines.
“We know that the pope continues to inspire us and his visit will have an enormous impact on our faith and our Christian life,” he said.
Pope Francis’ first international visit
Meanwhile, a Reuters news agency report earlier this month said Pope Francis will visit the poor in a favela and meet young prisoners when he travels to Brazil on his first international trip as pontiff in July.
Francis, who has said he wants to make concern for the poor a hallmark of his papacy, will visit the Manguinhos slum in Rio de Janeiro on the fourth day of his July 22-29 trip to the world’s largest Catholic country.
Manguinhos is one of Rio’s most visible favelas, wedged between a busy highway and a former oil refinery and near the main airport and large military bases.
The shantytown, which the pope will visit on July 25, had a long history of drug-related violence, but a police occupation late last year kicked out many of the drug and gun traffickers.
Manguinhos, home to about 35,000 poor people, is one of the communities that have been part of a community policing operation that has reduced violence in the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro.
The pope will also meet young prisoners who will be brought to the archbishop’s residence for the occasion.
The main purpose of the trip is for the pope to preside at the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth, an international gathering sometimes dubbed a “Catholic Woodstock” that takes place in a different city every two years.
The World Day of Youth celebrations start on July 23 and end on July 28.
Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years on, arrives on the afternoon of July 22 and will rest the next day to overcome jet lag, according to the official programme of the trip released by the Vatican.
On July 24, he will fly by helicopter to the city of Aparecida, about 240 km (150 miles) southwest of Rio de Janeiro, to visit the national shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, whom the Church honours at the patroness of Brazil.
That evening he visits a hospital in Rio that treats AIDS patients.
The pope’s participation in World Youth Day events starts on the evening of July 25 in Rio’s famed Copacabana Beach area and culminates with a huge open-air Mass in the Guaratiba area of the city on July 28.
During the trip he will also address Brazil’s political and business leaders.
The trip is expected to be the only one abroad for the pope this year. The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires is expected to visit his homeland early next year.
He is expected to travel to the central Italian city of Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis, whose name Bergoglio adopted when elected pope on March 13. – with a report from Reuters/VVP, GMA News