We join the 81 million Filipino Catholics in warmly welcoming Pope Francis.
Pope Francis arrives at 5:45 p.m. today at the Villamor Air Base then proceed to the Apostolic Nunciature, of the Vatican Embassy on Taft Avenue.
He arrived from Colombo, Sri Lanka, a country recovering from two-and-a-half decades of ethnic and religious civil war, where he spent 3 days, capped by the canonization of Fr. Joseph Vas.
He was met at the Bandaranaike International Airport by newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena, with 40 elephants dressed in colorful costumes lining the airport road behind him.
Only 7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population are Catholics, since the members of the Sinhalese majority are typically Buddhist, and Tamils for the most part Hindu.
President Aquino will lead the welcomers at Villamor Air Base.
He will receive Pope Francis at Malacañang on Friday, together with government officials and diplomatic corps. The Pope will proceed to the Manila Cathedral for a Holy Mass with bishops, priests and consecrated persons. Finally, he will head to the Mall of Asia Arena for a meeting with families.
On Saturday, he will travel to Tacloban and Palo, Leyte where he will lead a Mass; meet one million Typhoon Yolanda survivors and families, and religious followers at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport; and a 12-kilometer motorcade from airport to Archbishop’s Residence in Palo.
On Sunday, he will proceed to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) where he will meet with leaders of different religious and youth groups. He then goes to the Luneta Quirino Grandstand where Concluding Mass will be held.
President Aquino has taken a personal hand in the security preparations.
The Vatican and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle have requested that the lunch of the Pope with 30 Typhoon Yolanda and Bohol earthquake survivors be private and not covered by media.
Singer songwriter Jamie Rivera will sing the theme song “We Are All God’s Children,” which she wrote, on two papal visit events — at the meeting with families on Friday at Mall of Asia Arena and the gathering for the youth at the UST.