POPE Francis will visit the University of Santo Tomas, the only Pontifical university in Asia, on Jan. 18, 2015 to meet with religious leaders and the youth.

In a press conference held Friday evening at the Arzobispado de Manila, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle formally announced the official itinerary of the papal visit on Jan. 15 to 19, 2015.

Pope Francis will hold a brief meeting with religious leaders in UST on Jan. 18, 9:45 a.m. On the same day at 10:30 a.m., Pope Francis will rally the youth at the University’s Parade Grounds. (READ: 2015 papal visit official itinerary released)

According to Tagle, the University is historically a special place for papal visits since UST is a Pontifical university. “By tradition and history, from Pope Paul VI to St. John Paul II, the encounter with the youth happened in this University,” Tagle said.

The last pontiff to visit UST was Pope St. John Paul II, who visited 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 beatification of St. Lorenzo Ruiz.

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

Pope Francis’ visit will mark the 20th anniversary of the celebration of the World Youth Day in Manila, which Tagle described as a “pleasant coincidence.”

Blessed Paul VI visited the University on Nov. 20, 1970 when he met all the bishops of Asia.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said the Palace was considering declaring holidays in January because of the heavy traffic expected in Metro Manila.

UST Office of Public Affairs Director Giovanna Fontanilla said the best way for Thomasians to prepare for the visit was to prepare spiritually. “It is a moment for us to show the world that Thomasians are servant leaders,” Fontanilla told the Varsitarian.

Along with Tagle and Ochoa, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, the papal nuncio, Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)—Episcopal Commission on Social Communications, Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Coloma, and Ambassador Marciano Paynor joined the press conference.

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


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