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Palo bishop: Please soften security for people to get close to Pope

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines —Palo Archbishop John Du has appealed to security personnel to “soften” their draconian security measures during the visit of Pope Francis to Leyte province next week.

He said the stringent measures might discourage the faithful from attending the papal Mass at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport on Jan. 17.

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“I ask them to please soften their security measures. Our people would like to see the Holy Father and the Holy Father would like also to be close to the people,” Du said.

Only transparent bags

Based on the security preparations, those interested in attending the Mass will have to be at the site on the evening of Jan. 16. Tents and umbrellas are banned, only transparent raincoats are allowed. They cannot bring bottled water inside although there will be water stations inside. Smoking is also prohibited.

Backpacks are a big no-no. Instead, pilgrims are advised to carry transparent bags for personal belongings.

Not everyone can get in. Only those who are registered at their respective parishes can get inside the Mass site but they will be individually checked by security personnel.

“We don’t intend to serve as a barrier between His Holiness and the people but we are only after his safety,” said Chief Supt. Cedrick Train, the Philippine National Police deputy director in Eastern Visayas.

Archbishop Du said the police had begun tightening security that a soldier stopped him at the gate of his residence.

“I asked them to please allow even the walk-in for them to see the Pope. Let them be allowed after they are checked by our security personnel,” Du said of measures at the airport.

“I understand them because it is their duty. They are responsible for the safety of the Pope. But this is also an affair of the Church. We have also our pastoral obligation,” he said.

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Local organizers estimate that about 150,000 people are expected to attend the Mass. But as of Jan. 5, only less than 20,000 had registered at their respective parishes.

Each of the 78 parishes within the Archdiocese of Palo along with its suffragan dioceses of Calbayog, Borongan, Naval and Catarman is given 1,000 slots.

Du said that if the security measures are relaxed, “I know many will come to see the Pope.”

At least 7,000 policemen as well as soldiers will be deployed to secure the Pope.

There will be a policeman every five meters in the 12-kilometer road the Pope will travel from the airport to Palo. Thousands of civilian volunteers will serve as human barricades along the route.

People along the route will be frisked and their bags inspected. Smoking is not allowed. People in buildings have to stay on the ground.

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TAGS: Francis Du, John Du, Leyte, Palo, papal visit, safety of pope, Security, security measures
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