In two years time the Church in the Philippines will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity to the archipelago. This weekend the country’s bishops will decide whether they should invite Pope Francis to visit the country on this occasion.
According to CBCP News, Fr. Marvin Mejia, secretary general of the Philippine Bishops’ Conference, said that the matter will be discussed and finalized when prelates meet for their plenary assembly in Manila over the weekend.
For the past seven years, the church has been laying out plans for the 2021 Jubilee to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first mass and the first baptism in the Philippines.
In 2012, the Catholic Bishops Conference embarked on a “nine-year journey for the New Evangelization” with a different theme each year to prepare the faithful for the celebration.
Fr Mejia said that “What is important is that there should be an invitation and program already ahead of 2021.” It will have to be seen if the Pope will accept the invitation.
At the beginning of 2015, as part of his second Asian pilgrimage as Pope,from Sri Lanka, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics travelled to the Philippines.His trip included a visit to the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in Leyte. According to “Zenit” news agency that visit was the largest papal event in history, with around 7 million attendees in his final Mass in Manila.
In a speech in Malacañang, Pope Francis praised the Filipino Catholics’ strong faith and reminded them of their mission to spread the Gospel, noting the upcoming great jubilee.
“It is my hope that this important anniversary will point to its continuing fruitfulness and its potential to inspire a society worthy of the goodness, dignity, and aspirations of the Filipino people,” he said.
Bishop Arturo Bastes, head of the Bishop’s Commission on Mission, noted that this will be the “first time” that the local Church will invite the Pope for a visit to the Philippines.“When Pope Francis came to the Philippines four years ago, it was he who volunteered to come in view of the big catastrophe caused by Yolanda,” he said.
While it is “very rare” that a Pope visits a particular country twice, the bishop said that they are keeping their fingers crossed.
“Pope Francis might still consider accepting the invitation to celebrate with us the commemoration of the introduction of Christianity to our country,” said Bastes.