THE UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas will be graced by the presence of Pope Francis today as he meets with heads of other religions and the youth in another historic visit by a pontiff to the Catholic University of the Philippines.
A meeting between the Holy Father and 10 religious leaders will take place near the University’s Arch of the Centuries at 9:45 a.m.
The religious leaders set to meet Pope Francis are Metropolitan Nektarios (Tsilis) of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia; Venerable Master Hsing Yun, a Buddhist monk from the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan; Rabbi Eliyahu Azaria, who heads the synagogue in Makati; Maharaj Rajesh Sharma, a Hindu priest; and Ephraim Fajutagana, obispo máximo of the Philippine Independent Church and chairman of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
Other people on the list are Bishop Cesar Vicente Punzalan III, chairman of the board of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches; Imam Ibrahim Moxir Alhaj of the Imam Council of the Philippines; former chief justice Reynato Puno, chairman of the Philippine Bible Society; Julkipli Wadi, dean of the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines; and former UST Graduate School dean Lilian Sison.
Organizers said the interreligious meeting was an effort by the Church to work with "moderate elements" for peace, justice, and harmony.
The Holy Father also met religious leaders in Sri Lanka, where he went on a three-day visit before coming to the Philippines. But unlike the large gathering at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Sri Lanka, the dialogue in UST will only be a 10 to 15-minute conversation among religious leaders.
The Pope is expected to walk at Benavides Park before riding the popemobile in front of the Main Building that will take him to the Grandstand.
Almost 24,000 young people are set to meet Pope Francis at UST Field later at 10:30 a.m.
The youth encounter will feature the testimonies of Jun Chura, an out-of-school youth; Leandro Santos II, a UST law student; and Rikki Macolor, who will represent relief volunteers for the Typhoon Yolanda survivors.
Macolor, a Thomasian electronics engineer who invented the "Solar Night Light" for typhoon survivors in Tacloban, said his testimony would reflect the theme “Mercy and Compassion,” also the official theme for Pope Francis’ visit to the country.
“I don’t think that there will be enough time to ask him everything. I tried my best to relate my experiences with the theme of the Holy Father’s visit. However, at the end of the day, all I want to say is simply ‘Thank you and I love you,'” Macolor said in an email to the Varsitarian.
Bangued Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines—Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY), will welcome the Pope on the stage.
Jaucian will be joined by two children who will offer a token from the University and a garland of flowers as a sign of Filipino gesture and hospitality.
During the introductory rites, representatives from the youth will carry the Cross to be enthroned on the stage.
After the testimonies, Pope Francis will celebrate Liturgy of the Word. Prayers of the Faithful will be recited in Ilocano, Kapampangan, Tabaco, Bicolano, Cebuano, Waray, and Hiligaynon.
The Pope will lead the praying of the Angelus to conclude the event in the Pontifical University.
The UST event will be open to the public, but only pre-selected youth from the Archdiocesan Youth Commission, ECY, Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization participants, and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines can stay on the field in front of the grandstand.
Other places in UST will be open to the general public. Gates opened at 4:00 in the morning. Angeli Mae S. Cantillana and Gena Myrtle P. Terre