MANILA (Mabuhay) – Pope Francis is set to meet leaders of other religions during his visit to the Philippines in January 2015, priests said Thursday.
Fr. Melvin Mejia, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the meeting will take place at the University of Santo Tomas on January 18.
During that day, the Pope will also meet with the youth sector.
“One of the things close to the heart of Pope Francis are the different religions and faiths. Inter-religious dialogue is an important dimension of his papacy,” Mejia told reporters during the first CBCP media briefing on the papal visit.
“Even before he became Pope, he was already engaging in inter-religious dialogue with other religions and denominations, so it is part of the visit.”
Fr. Anton Pascual, president of Radio Veritas Philippines, said details of the meeting will be discussed in a press briefing on December 29.
The Pope will arrive in Manila on January 15, 2015 on board the Sri Lankan flag carrier. He will be welcomed personally by President Benigno Aquino III.
The following day, the Pope will pay a courtesy call to Aquino in Malacanang. He will also celebrate mass at the Manila Cathedral, then meet families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
On Saturday, January 17, Pope Francis will visit Leyte, where he will celebrate mass near the Tacloban Airport, as well as meet survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.
He will return to Manila and meet the youth at the UST on the morning of January 18. In the afternoon, he will celebrate mass at Luneta. Millions of Catholics are expected to attend the said mass.
The Pope will leave for Rome on January 19, on board a Philippine Airlines (PAL) plane.
As the Pope’s meeting with the victims of Yolanda is touted as the highlight of his visit, Fr. Pascual said the the papal visit will take on “mercy and compassion” as its central theme.
“Pope Francis will bring with him the message of mercy and compassion,” Pascual said.
“The powerful image that we would like to project with the Holy Father is that of the healing presence. The Holy Father is a healing Pope. Following our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Father would like to share the healing grace of God: healing of individuals, healing of relationships, and even healing of institutions.”(MNS)