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Vatican releases Pope's itinerary for Philippines visit

Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle prepares to take his seat for a news conference Friday, Nov.14, 2014 in Manila, Philippines to announce the itinerary of Pope Francis on his first visit to the Philippines to the Philippines in January 2015. AP/Bullit Marquez

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will host a luncheon for Filipino survivors of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan during his Jan. 12-19 visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, his second visit to Asia in a year that confirms the region is a priority for his pontificate.

The Vatican on Friday released the itinerary for the pope's visit, which comes just five months after his August pilgrimage to South Korea.

Francis first flies to Colombo, where he will canonize Sri Lanka's first saint, the Rev. Giuseppe Baz, a 17th-century missionary credited with reviving the Catholic faith in the country.

The pope arrives in Manila Jan. 15, and two days later flies to the central city of Tacloban, hardest hit by the Nov. 8, 2013, typhoon that left more than 7,300 people dead or missing. There he will celebrate Mass, host a luncheon and comfort survivors.

The official itinerary is as follows:

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January 15, 2015
Arrival from Sri Lanka
Villamor Air Base Motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature
Taft Avenue, Manila

January 16, 2015
Welcome Ceremony – Malacañan Palace
Manila motorcade to the Cathedral - Manila Cathedral
Mass with bishops, Priests, and religious - Manila Cathedral
Motorcade to the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay encounter with families – Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay

January 17, 2015
Departure for Archdiocese of Palo – Villamor Air Base Arrival at Tacloban Airport
Holy Mass
Tacloban Airport lunch with the poor and survivors of calamities at Gonzagahaus (Residence of the Archbishop of Palo) – Palo, Leyte
Blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor – Palo, Leyte
Meeting with the priests and religious at Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration (Palo Cathedral) – Palo, Leyte
Departure for Manila
Arrival at Manila – Villamor Air Base

January 18, 2015
Brief Meeting with the religious leaders and encounter with the youth – Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, España, Manila
Motorcade to Rizal Park, Manila
Concluding Mass, Rizal Park, Manila

January 19, 2015
Motorcade from the Apostolic Nunciature
Departure for Rome – Villamor Air Base

The visit is "very unexpected but is also very much welcome," Archbishop John Du of Palo near Tacloban said in a statement.

Francis' final public event is a Mass in Manila's Rizal Park on Jan. 18. The Philippines' presidential executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa, said the crowd was expected to number "in the millions."

When St. John Paul II visited the Philippines in 1995, he drew 5 million people to Mass, a record that no pope has since matched. Francis just may, given his enormous popularity in a country that appreciates his attention to the poor.

Asia is widely considered the future of the Catholic Church, growing there while it withers in traditionally Christian Europe. Despite being a minority religion in every Asian nation except the Philippines, which is predominantly Roman Catholic, the church baptizes more Catholics in Asia every year than in Europe, according to Vatican statistics. - with Philstar.com


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