TACLOBAN CITY- A group from the Vatican arrived in the city, ravaged by Super typhoon Yolanda eight months ago now, is becoming clearer, on July 3(Thursday) to conduct site inspections where Pope Francis will hold a Holy Mass during his visit to the Philippines on January next year.
The visiting Vatican group was composed of Alberto Gasbarri, chief organizer of the pastoral visit; Paolo Corvini of the Office of the Protocol and Stefania Izzo, secretariat of the state.
They were joined by Manila Archbishop, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Papal Nuncio Giuseppe Pinto and were welcomed by Archbishop John Du of the Archdiocese of Palo.
Corvini said that their visit is part of the preparation for the impending visit of Francis to Leyte on January next year.
The areas visited by the team were Tacloban and Leyte.
The group first visited a five hectares paved area located front of the Daniel Z. Romualdez in Tacloban which could easily accommodate about 700,000 people.
The group then visited the Government Center, Sacred Seminary and a vacant lot at Barangay Candahug. All these areas are located in Palo town.
According to Corvini, these areas are being inspected by them as possible site for the Mass to be officiated by the Pope during his visit which he said could take place between January 15 to 20, 2015.
He, however, did not say as to what are their requirements for an area where the Holy Father should hold a Mass.
Monsignor Ramon Aguilos of the Palo archdiocese who also acts the local protocol for the visit of Francis in Leyte, said that all these places are big enough to accommodate the expected thousands of people who will see and listen the Pope during the mass.
Asked if during his visit, the Holy Father will also visit typhoon victims still living in bunk houses, Aguilos could not make any categorical answer.
“We will see what the actual visit will do because definitely that is the main purpose to visit the Yolanda-affected areas. It is for the Pope’s pastoral visit but the details about which areas will be visited I have no idea. We will just wait the decision of the Vatican officials,’ Aguilos said.
But lawyer Lila Czarina Aquitania, chief of staff of Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, said that she is hoping that the Pope will eventually say his mass in the city.
“His primary reason why he will come here because of Yolanda. And Tacloban is considered to be the ground zero of Yolanda and it is the hardest-hit among areas hit by Yolanda,” she said.
She said that aside from the area at the Tacloban Airport, people could still hear the mass of the Pope by using a live streaming to other areas in the city.
She said that the city government could feed the event at the Balyuan area, Abucay terminal and at the Tacloban Astrodome, where thousands of people evacuated before the typhoon.
It also served as temporary site for more than 1,500 families after their homes were destroyed due to the onslaught of Yolanda.
Francis, if his visit will push through, could become the first ever Pope to visit Eastern Visayas home to more than 4 million Catholics.