Best seats in meet with pope reserved for poor

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Pope Francis wants to make eye contact with members of poor families when he meets them at the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena on Jan. 16.

For this reason, the 300 indigents to be selected by Caritas Manila will get the best seats in the coliseum. They will occupy the center of the arena and directly face the pope, according to Monsignor Esteban Lo, who is in charge of the event.

“Many, if not all, of the urban poor would be seated in front of him because they are the VIP (very important people) in the event. This is in the spirit of ‘mercy and compassion,’ ” Lo said, referring to the theme of the papal visit.

The arena has a seating capacity of 13,000. Each of the 86 dioceses will be sending 100 people as their representatives, according to Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, chairman of the committee on information and media relations for the papal visit.

But Vergara said the Vatican representative for media and the liturgy coordinate said that the pope wants this event to be a real “personal encounter.”

“If the pope would be at the platform and there are people at the back, there should be no one sitting at the back so we would not be able to utilize that space for the people. Even if there are LED screens, the Holy Father wants it to be a respectful encounter. He wants to have eye contact with the people,” he added.

Pope Francis is expected to be at SM MOA Arena at 5:30 p.m. He would be received by Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.

The 100-year-old Remedios Enriquez-Rodrigo, mother-in-law of actress Boots Anson-Roa, will present the garland to Pope Francis. Roa’s husband, lawyer King Rodrigo, will read the Message of the Family.

Three families with different stories will deliver their testimonies to the pope. They are a poor family, a family with overseas Filipino worker (OFW) member, and a family with a person with disability (PWD) member.

Fr. Dennis Soriano, liturgist in charge of the event, explained that by showcasing three different Filipino families, the pope would have an overview of the experiences of Filipino families.

The poor family will speak in Tagalog, the family with OFW member will communicate in English, while the family with PWD member might use sign language and have an interpreter.

The main choir and a support choir will sing at least four songs, including We Are All God’s Children, Only Selfless Love, Tell The World of His Love, and Welcome To The Family. There will also be folk dancing.

Pope to use open vehicle

Pope Francis will use an open vehicle during his visit to the country to get close to Filipinos.

“Because the Holy Father wants to get close to the people, the pope mobile is an open vehicle,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Diocese of Balanga, chairman of the committee on transportation on the papal visit.

“But with the help of the Presidential Security Group, his security is okay,” Santos said in Filipino. “The Church and the State have a good relationship in preparing for the papal visit. The preparations are going well.”

Noy urged to declare holidays

Meanwhile, mayors of Metro Manila yesterday urged President Aquino to declare Jan. 15 to 19, the days of the papal visit, as non-working holidays.

In a resolution, the Metro Manila Council composed of mayors said the papal visit is expected to generate traffic congestion due to the influx of pilgrims and devotees, so the situation would be better managed if the days of the papal visit would be non-working holidays.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), on the other hand, is set to issue a Notice to Airmen regarding “no fly zones” during the papal visit. With Ric Sapnu, Rudy Santos, Mike Frialde

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