AS POPE Benedict XVI will get nearer to Asia for the 23rd World Youth Day in Australia, hopes are high that he will also visit the “East” soon.

The Catholic Churches of India and the Philippines were the first to express their desire for a papal visit.

According to UST Central Seminary Rector Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, O.P., bishops from both countries requested the Pope to make a short stopover to bless their lands before he goes to Australia. But the Holy See apparently turned down the requests.

But Timoner stressed that the diversity of religion and previous disputes among cultures do not affect the Pope’s pastoral visits–a common misconception after the misunderstood statement of Pope Benedict XVI that was quoted from the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paliaologos, and was only meant to clarify the relationship between faith and reason. But still, the Pope apologized.

“The Muslim community has nothing negative to say about the Pope,” Timoner told the Varsitarian.

In fact, Filipino Muslims accepted the Pope’s apology in a manifesto for peace and unity signed by both Muslim and Christian leaders. They even expressed their sympathy and sincere concern to the Holy Father.

Not just Catholic leaders pleaded for a pastoral visit from Pope Benedict XVI. Philippine civil officials also said that the Pope’s presence will bring positive effects in the country.

“[A Papal visit] will serve as a unifying force for Filipinos from all walks of life,” the presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in an official statement during the visit of President Macapagal-Arroyo in the Vatican.

Fellowship of the ink

Last March 9, the Pope declined an invitation to visit the country, which was sent July last year by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Angel Lagdameo and Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales.

Even though previous requests have been turned down, the Philippine Catholic Church still remains hopeful for a papal visit.

According to Timoner, the quadricentennial celebration of the foundation of the University in 2011 is one of the best hopes of the country for a papal visit since UST had been graced before by two popes – Pope Paul VI in 1970 and Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.

World Youth Day

Although the Pope will not be stopping in Asia in the duration of his trip to Australia, the Filipino youth, including UST delegates, will be privileged to join him in celebrating the 23rd World Youth Day.

According to Rowena Castro, chaperon to the UST delegates, the event is a chance to unite the youth in Christ.

“The World Youth Day will bind the voices of the youth in terms of their faith witnessing,” Castro told the Varsitarian.

Meanwhile, Albert Loteyro, assistant to the director of the Campus Ministry, believes that the delegates will have a different experience that will strengthen their Christian beliefs.

“It will change the way they view their faith;,” Loteyro said.

The event, which is set from July 15 to 20, is expected to attract 500,000 participants to the week-long celebration.

“Be prepared to put your life on the line to enlighten the world with the truth of Christ; to respond with love to hatred and disregard for life; to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ in every corner of the earth,” the Pope stated in his message to the young people of the world for the 23rd World Youth Day.

The need for another

World Youth Day came was established by Pope John Paul II in 1984. Since then, it is celebrated internationally every two or three years in different countrie.

The Philippines hosted the 1995 World Youth Day that saw Pope John Paul II visiting the University. The Varsitarian editor in chief during that time, then Faculty of Medicine and Surgery student Karina Torralba, had the honor of delivering the address to the Pope on behalf of the Filipino youth at the UST Grandstand. In her speech, she said the youth should not be afraid to voice out their ideas and show their assertiveness.

Starting 1997, the University has never failed to send delegates to the celebration.

Papal advocacies

Like John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI has carried on with the World Youth Day in order to spread common values of humanity, especially human rights.

In his address to the United Nations last April 18, he stated, “…the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity.”

The Pope speaks not only of human rights, but also of the unity of religions, importance of education and role of the youth.

By being united, every follower of any religion can be instrumental to the peace for the whole human family. “May the followers of all religions stand together in defending and promoting life and religious freedom everywhere,” said the Pope in his meeting with the representatives of other religions.

In a meeting with Catholic educators, the Pope said education is an integral to the proclamation of the Good News. Their mission of evangelization is for the aspiration of society’s development.

Patriotic fervor flows on a Sunday

For the youth, the Pope encourages them to, “pray every day for our world.”

The Pope also inspires the youth to be the modern disciples of Christ. “Shine his light upon this great city and beyond,” he said.


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