Photo by Nazzi M. Castro

UPDATED 29 July 2014, 10:07 p.m. – POPE FRANCIS will embark on an apostolic visit to the Philippines on Jan. 15 to 19 next year, a trip that Church officials hope will bring forth a “spiritual typhoon.”

The pontiff will “most likely” fly to Leyte to visit victims of typhoon “Yolanda” in Tacloban and Palo, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said in a press conference Tuesday at the Arzobispado de Manila in Intramuros.

The pope will land in Manila after a visit to Sri Lanka.

The Manila archdiocese’s announcement coincided with Rome’s official confirmation of the dates of the papal visit.

But Tagle declined to give the complete details, saying only that the itinerary would be released by the end of the year.

A news report on the Vatican Radio website said the details of the 2015 trip would be released “shortly.”

Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, said next year’s papal visit should lead to a “spiritual typhoon.”

Tagle did not confirm nor deny that the Pope was scheduled to visit the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.

“There is no official announcement if the Pope will drop by UST, but for the past visits, UST has always figured as one of the sites of the Pope’s interaction with the youth,” the cardinal said.

A source privy to the preparations for the papal visit said UST would be one of the stops in Manila, to allow the Pope to spend a day with the youth.

Pope Francis is also expected to meet President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacañang, and lead an open-air Mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.

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Other stops will be at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, the Arzobispado de Manila, and the Nunciature, where Pope Francis is expected to stay.

The papal visit’s theme is “A Nation of Mercy and Compassion,” reflecting the pastoral character of Francis’ pontificate that has captured the secular world’s attention.

This is the fourth time a pope will visit the Catholic University of the Philippines.

The last pontiff to visit UST was Pope St. John Paul II, who graced the University on Jan. 13, 1995 for the celebration of World Youth Day, and on Feb. 18, 1981 when he came to Manila for the historic beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz, later the first Filipino to be canonized as a saint.

Pope Francis’ forthcoming visit to the Philippines will mark the 20th anniversary of the celebration of World Youth Day in Manila.

The closing Mass of the 1995 World Youth Day at Rizal Park drew five million faithful, the largest crowd in Pope St. John Paul II’s pontificate.

Pope Paul VI visited UST on Nov. 20, 1970 when he met the bishops of Asia at the Medicine Auditorium.

For the UST Quadricentennial in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI gave a video message in lieu of a papal visit.

Pope Francis expressed his intention to visit the Philippines in a press conference aboard a flight back to Rome after his visit to Israel last May 27.

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma, who was also at the press conference, said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. would be the government’s lead person for the 2015 papal visit. Angeli Mae S. Cantillana

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