UST WILL once again open its doors to the Supreme Pontiff as Pope Francis is set for two key activities on campus during his much-awaited visit to the Philippines on Jan. 15 to 19, 2015.

This will be the fourth time that UST will be graced by a papal visit.

The last pontiff to visit the school was Pope St. John Paul II, who did so on Jan. 13, 1995 as part of the World Youth Day celebrations, and on Feb. 18, 1981 when he came to Manila for the beatification of St. Lorenzo Ruiz.

In a press conference last Nov. 14, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle formally announced Francis' inter-religious dialogue in UST on Jan. 18, 9:45 a.m. On the same day at 10:30 a.m., the Pope will hold an encounter with the youth at the University's Parade Grounds.

Vice Rector for Religious Affairs Fr. Filemon Dela Cruz, O.P., said the gathering at UST would not be exclusive for Thomasians.

“We are blessed that we are chosen as hosts for this special gathering, but this is not our event. This is for the whole Church,” Dela Cruz said in a previous interview.

According to Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines—Episcopal Commission on Youth (CBCP-ECY), the encounter with the Pope in UST will open to all the Filipino youth, but the priorities are those who were "pre-selected" by the commission.

“This event is open to all. Pre-selected youth ministries will be given a nameplate or a pass to be able to fill the UST Parades Ground,” Jaucian told the Varsitarian.

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He clarified that although the Jan. 18 event would be an encounter with the youth, adults could also join.

“The field is the only place reserved for the pre-selected youths, the rest is open for everyone,” he said.

Jaucian said the ECY was also accepting 60 youth from each diocese to join the gathering. The Facebook account of ECY showed that youth ministries from one apostolic vicariate, eight archdioceses, 29 dioceses, one prelature, and the Military Ordinariate have already submitted their reply forms and registration.

Aside from diocesan youth ministries, 17 youth groups have already submitted their registration. Among these youth groups are the CFC- Singles for Christ, Youth for Christ, Christ’s Youth in Action, Student Catholic Action of the Philippines and Christian Life Community of the Philippines.

Encounters with the Pope

Jaucian said there would be free post-arrival activities before the meeting proper takes place at 10:30 in the morning.

“As early as 6 a.m., the ECY and Archdiocesan Youth Commission of the Archdiocese of Manila will lead animation activities through songs and prayers,” he said.

Jaucian, who is scheduled to deliver the welcome message during the gathering, will be joined by two children who will offer garlands to Pope Francis.

The youth encounter will also feature sharing of stories from three youths. One from a poor family, one Typhoon Yolanda survivor and a rehabilitation volunteer.

Before the youth encounter, UST will also host the dialogue between Pope Francis and leaders from different religions at 9:45 in the morning.

The Varsitarian tried to reach the UST administration for the exact venue, but there was no reply as of press time.

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Fr. Carlos Reyes, executive secretary of the CBCP—Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious dialogue, said at least 10 leaders from different religions will meet with Pope Francis.

Reyes said the inter-religious meeting aims to seek peace and unity, in accordance to Pope Francis’ promotion of ecumenical movement and inter-dialogue.

The dialogue could foster more cooperation, mutual respect and trust among religious leaders, Reyes said.

Since Pope Francis’ visit in UST will coincide with the celebration of the feast of Santo Niño de Cebu, Jauciansaid the faithful who would attend the gathering in UST will proceed to the Luneta Park for the final mass while doing the ati-atihan dance.

Meanwhile, the Manila City Government had already declared a four-day holiday from Jan. 15 to 19, 2015, to “ensure the Pope’s security,” especially during his visits to UST, Manila Cathedral, Quirino Grandstand, and the Papal Nuncio Residence.

The ECY has distributed formation modules to different dioceses nationwide, aiming to prepare the youth for the Pope’s visit and to know him better.

The Thomasian way

UST Office of Public Affairs Director Giovanna Fontanilla noted that this was a time for Thomasians to show their "servant-leadership."

“We have to prepare spiritually in order to show the world that Thomasians are really committed to serve,” Fontanilla said in a previous interview.

In a spiritual gathering hosted by Theological Society titled “A Nation of Mercy and Compassion,” Dela Cruz encouraged the laity to internalize the essence of mercy and compassion which would bring the faithful away from the blinding rewards of the material world.

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"The Pope's visit must disturb our hearts in order to make us think over the things we neglected, to take notice of things such as love of neighbor," Dela Cruz said. "When we are blinded, we feel lost, yet compassion finds a way to restore the sight that had been lost from us.”

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