So what you say. What's the big deal? Well, to be perfectly honest, for me, as a non-Catholic, it never has been a particularly big deal. However, I do live in a country where I guess around 90% of the population are, if not practicing Catholics, then at least still retain the vestiges of the Catholicism that was draped around them as children. So, for most of the country it does seem like a big deal. This will be only the third Pope to visit the Philippines, and the fourth Papal Visit; Pope John Paul came here twice. To say the visit is creating immense excitement would be to understate the obvious. Catholics, and indeed most Filipinos seem to be excitedly looking forward to the Pontiff's arrival later this week. Flights have been disrupted or cancelled to accommodate the Pope's arrival; traffic will be diverted and people's everyday lives will be thrown into chaos for a few days - but truthfully nobody seems to mind. In fact, a four day holiday has been declared in the Metro Manila area whilst the Pope is in town. Yeah - this is a big deal!
Pope John Paul did soften my attitude toward the Papacy somewhat - he always seemed genuine enough and well-meaning, but Pope Benedict it seemed was a throwback to the authoritarian, self-serving days of old. So what of this new Pope - Pope Francis.
Without even really trying Pope Francis seems to have already carved out a niche for himself in the Church. He looks like and acts like everyone's favorite Grandfather. A smile is never far from his lips and most importantly, for any leader - he doesn't just talk the talk; this guy walks the walk! He preaches humility, he preaches compassion, he preaches care and concern for the poor. What the difference is, is that he doesn't just pay lip service to these creeds - he really lives them in his daily life and in his travels around the world. For the first time in a very long time I actually feel there is someone in charge of the Vatican who can 1/ Save the Church from itself and 2/ Change the world for the better.
I'll be honest - I like this guy. To me he is everything a religious and world leader should be. He is kind, caring, compassionate and humble. His mission, it seems is to make a difference in the lives of the "have-nots" in our society and that seems to me to be a wonderful mission for a Pope to undertake. Sure, there are still many issues that dog the Catholic Church; such as priestly celibacy, birth-control, and corruption within the corridors of power, but with Pope Francis I really do see an opportunity for the Church to win back the many faithful who have left and more importantly to make a real difference in our world.
This Pope is different in that he is very definitely "of this world". He makes no pretensions that he is anything special, but he uses the power that the Papacy gives him for spreading hope, and calling for social equality and justice in the world. I can't think of a better thing for a Pope to be doing. More power to you Francis and long may you stay on the Papal throne.
Well, firstly he is coming mainly to visit and comfort the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda and the Bohol Earthquake, so his main focus will be on Tacloban. He is in Manila for three days though and he is giving a Public Mass in Rizal Park on the Sunday, the day before he heads out. My wife casually asked me one day, "do we want to go?" Now, it may have been a casual question, but my immediate reaction was "Good God! No way! There's going to be millions of people there, and I mean literally millions. Why would we want to subject ourselves to that, especially in the heat?" So that was fine - we weren't going...end of story!
I am 55 years old and living in a foreign country, where I tend to stand out a fair bit because of my skin color. I've already done something few others have done - followed my dreams and started a new life, far, far away from home. I am adventurous, so why shouldn't I go and see the Pope? Why shouldn't I do something off the wall?
How many people have the opportunity in their lifetime to be a part of something as massive as this Public Mass will be? I confidently predict that there will be somewhere between 10 and 15 million people heading to "see" the Pope next Sunday, why shouldn't I be one of those?
So - we will be! My wife and I will go to the Public Mass in Rizal Park next Sunday and experience something amazing and different, and you know what I'm excited!
Will we see the Pope? Almost certainly not!
Does it matter? Not at all!
Some might say we will be "Just a Drop in the Ocean" - but that's a whole different story.