Pope to have lunch with 30 Yolanda, quake victims

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MANILA, Philippines – Thirty survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda and the 7.2-magnitude earthquake will have a lunch date with Pope Francis when he visits Tacloban City and Palo town in Leyte on Jan. 17.

Fr. Chris Arthur Militante, media coordinator for the papal visit of the Archdiocese of Palo, told Radio Veritas that their Episcopal See’s relief and rehabilitation unit is selecting the “papal lunch mates” and the selection would be fair.

“They are trying their best to choose people, not only those who had survived Yolanda but even other calamities, so that the event will be well-represented,” Militante said.

Cebu and Bohol, which were struck by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 15 last year, are expected to send representatives to the lunch with the Pope.

Priests from the Archdiocese of Palo also reminded the public yesterday that the focus of the papal visit is to comfort survivors of calamities, including provincial officials as they are also victims of Yolanda.

The priests made the comment in reaction to reports that Palo Archbishop John Du said that Pope Francis expressed his desire to stay away from politicians and very important persons.

Fr. Amadeo Alvero, social communications coordinator for the papal visit, explained that Pope Francis is not just a religious leader but also a head of state, so he would be given an official welcome by political leaders of the places he would visit in January 2015.

Militante said perhaps what Du meant was that the pontiff would be visiting the country as the Church’s pastoral leader and his focus was to console and comfort Yolanda survivors. He noted that Du’s statement was just taken out of context.

“The pope loves all of us,” Alvero added.

Grandstand repair ongoing

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has allotted more than P20 million for the repair and rehabilitation of Quirino Grandstand and Rizal Park in preparation for Pope Francis’ mass there on Jan. 18.

As of last week the DPWH has completed 30 to 40 percent of repairs, according to DPWH-National Capital Region director Reynaldo Tagudando.

The interior of the Quirino Grandstand was repainted and the cable and electrical wiring and plumbing system were fixed.

A portion of the budget would also be used for renting portable toilets and chairs, for construction of the platform where the chairs would be installed, and construction of a bridge that would lead to the stage.

According to the DPWH, capacity of the north and south wings of Quirino Grandstand is 2,100 people, 500 priests in front of the stage, and 250 for seating.

The parade ground could accommodate 5,000 people while the rest of the crowd could occupy the grassy area at the grandstand.

Tagudando said the DPWH is expecting about 5 million people to attend the mass. Since Rizal Park can only accommodate 1.2 million, people are expected to spill over to Taft Avenue, Anda Circle and Manila Baywalk.

The DPWH might install speakers and LED screens for the benefit of those positioned far from the grandstand.

Tight security

Security will be very tight during the pope’s visit in Leyte, according to Militante.

Fr. Rex Ramirez, local communications coordinator for the papal visit, said cellphones could be banned, especially for people privileged to get inside the secured perimeter at the Tacloban airport where the Pope would say mass on Jan. 17.

Ramirez said the security group is still deciding how many people the secured perimeter can accommodate. With Lalaine Jimenea

Read more from The Philippine Star

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