After the announcement, social media, which is the fastest way to disseminate updates, was filled with news of excitement from netizens.

Nonetheless, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ reminded the public that the best way to prepare for the visit was to strengthen one’s spiritual life.

The leaders of the Church foresaw the buzz that the visit would create; prompting them to reiterate that the Pope would be coming foremost for the earthquake victims and victims of typhoon “Yolanda” in Leyte.

Further fueling the uproar was when the official itinerary for the Pope’s visit was released last Nov. 15.

Everyone wanted to see and interact with the Holy Father. Who wouldn’t? But the people might be missing the true essence of his coming, as the Vicar of Christ, which is to bring the message of mercy and compassion.

Compared to the past papal visits, the one Francis wants is a “simple and low key trip,” a mirror of his personal character.

Pope Francis is known for living a simple lifestyle. When he was bishop of Buenos Aires, he was often seen travelling by bus, living in an apartment and cooking his own dinner.

Upon his election to papacy on March 13, 2013, the Pope retained his humble stature. He encouraged the establishment of Church for the Poor, a community of Christians who open their hearts to the needs of others.

“Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid,” Pope Francis said in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (No. 187).

As he visits the country, the challenge for us is to emulate the Supreme Pontiff.

Instead of dwelling on the aesthetics, it would be better to promote efforts on helping the poor and afflicted. The Holy Father would surely appreciate if Filipinos would live by his message of mercy and compassion.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, encouraged the faithful to be merciful.

“The most distinctive way to prepare for the coming of Pope Francis for the Philippines is to become people rich in mercy. Let us make mercy our national identity,” he said in a pastoral letter last July 7. “We encourage you our dear people to resolve to make an act of mercy everyday.”

Simple acts of giving, sympathizing with others and extending continuous aid to the victims of the recent calamities can best exemplify the Holy Father’s message.

As the new year starts, why not include in one’s new year’s resolution promises of turning material clamors to ways in nurturing one’s spiritual life?

The new year should be an opportunity to foster lifelong commitments to live as true Christians.

May the Holy Father be not only a prime personality that would visit the country but mirror of mercy and compassion. April Joy E. Dy


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