Cebu clings to prayer for papal visit in ’16
CEBU CITY—While many Cebuanos were disappointed that Cebu was not part of the itinerary of Pope Francis during his visit to the country, they remain hopeful that Francis would be here next year.
The Cebu Archdiocese and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines sent an invitation to Francis to attend the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) that would be held in Cebu on Jan. 25 to 31, 2016.
No action from the Vatican has been taken on the invitation, said Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
But he said the Pope might drop by Cebu during the IEC in 2016 because he is set to visit another Asian country during that time.
Held every four years, the IEC draws more than 15,000 devotees from Church officials to laity from all over the world.
The 51st gathering in Cebu will have a theme: “Christ in You: Our Hope of Glory.”
The 51st IEC was supposed to be held on May 23 to 29, 2016. But Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee on the IEC, had asked that the 51st IEC be rescheduled since the Pope had a full schedule in May next year.
Due to Marini’s request, the 51st IEC was moved from Jan. 25 to 31, 2016.
In one of their meetings in Rome in mid-2013, Palma personally invited the Pope to grace the IEC.
“I told him to visit the Philippines during the International Eucharistic Congress and the Holy Father told me: ‘Pray that I’m still alive by that time and that I still have enough strength (to travel).’ I couldn’t help but laugh at his remark,” Palma said.
But things changed after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” devastated the Visayas on Nov. 8, 2013.
After learning about the devastation, the Pope decided to visit the Philippines to spend time with Yolanda survivors.
Cebu was not on the itinerary, though.
Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, in a separate interview, said he, too, wants the Pope to visit Cebu.
Vidal said the Pope would have gone to Cebu only if Yolanda had not caused so many deaths and so much suffering in other areas in the Visayas.
Vidal, however, said although Cebu longs to have Pope Francis in the IEC, popes are not usually expected to attend IECs.
“I know that popes do not attend the IEC. In all the IECs that I have attended from India, Europe, Poland to Rome, to America, there’s no attendance of a pope. Only a representative,” he said.
But since Pope Francis has been labelled as the “Pope of Surprises,” Msgr. Joseph Tan said there’s a possibility that he would deviate from the usual and attend the IEC.
“While it is true that popes do not normally come to the IEC, IEC 2016 in Cebu merits special consideration,” said Tan, media liaison officer of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
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