Pope Francis to make traditional visit to UST as pontifical university
MANILA, Philippines — Why do visiting Popes never miss a stopover at the University of Santo Tomas?
Following the footsteps of his predecessors, Blessed Pope Paul VI and now St. John Paul II, Pope Francis is set to visit the Dominican-run institution in Manila on Sunday toward the end of his four-day apostolic visit here.
It’s been a “tradition” for papal visits to include one at a “pontifical” university like UST, Bangued Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Commission on Youth, told the Inquirer.
As a pontifical university, a title bestowed on it by Pope Leo XIII in 1902, UST is under the supervision of the Apostolic See. Later in 1947, it got its title “The Catholic University of the Philippines” from the Pope Pius XII.
The Apostolic See allowed UST, then named Colegio de Santo Tomas, to confer theology and philosophy degrees in 1619, eight years after it was established as the Colegio de Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario in Intramuros.
Under three subsequent Popes, the college became a university and was allowed to confer degrees in other faculties.
In its official website, UST noted that it was only “the second university in the world after the Gregorian University in Rome to be granted the formal title of Pontifical University.”
In his visit to UST on Nov. 28, 1970, the first by a Pope to a university in the Far East, Paul VI described the school as the “university world of the Philippines.” He was welcomed by some 400,000 students.
“As a Pontifical University, Santo Tomas has a special right to the Pope’s attention,” John Paul II told the school during his visit on Jan. 13, 1995 on the occasion of the World Youth Day.
Himself a former university professor, he said he had “a special affinity with” students. He urged the Filipino youth to “help in saving our own generation from the futility, frustration and emptiness in which so many of your contemporaries find themselves.”
UST was also in the itinerary of John Paul II when he first visited the Philippines in 1981.
In his apostolic constitution “On Catholic Universities,” John Paul II said they should “make known [their] Catholic identity” and ensure that “Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected.”
For his own visit to UST, Francis will meet with other religious leaders and address the youth on the morning of Jan. 18 before proceeding to Luneta for the concluding Mass in the afternoon.
UST has begun mobilizing medical personnel to man health stations in preparation for the huge crowd attending the papal event.
Around 400,000 students showed up for Paul VI’s visit.
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