TACLOBAN CITY—Palo Archbishop John Du asked the Catholic faithful to recite an oratio imperata, or obligatory prayer, for fair weather after the weather bureau warned that the tropical depression east of the Philippines may rain on Pope Francis’s five-day apostolic visit which begins at 5:45 p.m. today.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said the tropical depression may cause heavy rain in Leyte on Saturday when the pope arrives to comfort the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda which killed more than 6,000 people on November 8, 2013.
But Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said Leyte residents have already sustained extraordinary difficulties the past 14 months after a series of typhoons even after the devastation wreaked by Yolanda and they will not be discouraged from going out to see the pope.
Du, on the other hand, asked his priests and all Catholic faithful to recite the oratio imperata for fair weather during the papal visit.
“Let us all pray [the] oratio imperata. The bad weather that we have been experiencing in the past really affected our preparation for the papal visit. But if we pray together, for sure we will have good weather during Pope Francis’ visit,” the archbishop said.
An oratio imperata is a special intention usually ordered by local ordinary to seek deliverance from a natural disasters.
The pope is expected to arrive at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City on Saturday morning where he will hold a Mass at the airport’s new apron.
Francis is expected to stay in Tacloban for six and a half hours which are all dedicated to activities with the poor.
Francis will also go to nearby Palo town, the seat of the archdiocese, where he is expected to meet with 30 Yolanda survivors, inaugurate a clinic for the poor and visit a resettlement site within church property, Du said.
While officials are concerned that the possible rain may affect public attendance, Romualdez said he and other local officials are now finalizing preparations in case a typhoon indeed strikes during the Mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis.
“Rain or shine, typhoon or no typhoon, nothing can stop us,” Romualdez said.
“Now, more than ever, we need the prayers and blessings of Pope Francis. We still have a long way to go before we fully recover from super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ and there’s still no clear end in sight to our sufferings,” Romualdez said.
“Pope Francis must see for himself and hear from us the true situation we’re in. It would be the best way for His Holiness to pray to God for our needs and salvation,” the congressman added.
Meanwhile, Leyte residents continued to prepare for the visit of the pope, who specifically said he was coming to the country to comfort those devastated by Yolanda 14 months ago.
But there is a wave of excitement not among Catholics but also among other religious groups in Leyte.
“I am thrilled about Pope Francis coming. My Catholic friends and classmates will surely find hope from him. They will have more reasons to rise up,” said 14-year-old Carl Diaz, a Mormon.
“I will join the others to see the Pope’s motorcade. To see my friends happy will also make me happy,” Diaz said, adding that seeing the highest leader of the Catholic church is a privilege for him as a resident of Palo.
Jeminah Libut, a 14-year-old Protestant, shared the same excitement, saying she is happy that “more of my Catholic friends are now aware of their faith.”
“The papal visit will surely give strength to my friends. This helps them overcome their grief of losing their loved ones. But I will only watch the program on the television,” she added.
Jane Ayuban, a young Adventist church member, also said that she is happy about the event for her Catholic friends, although she stressed that the pope’s visit “will not change my religion.”
“My younger brother, an Adventist, is even part of the choir for the papal visit. It is an exciting event also for our family,” she said.
In reaction, Fr. Chris Arthur Militante, information officer of Palo archdiocese, said that “this is indeed a tangible expression that we are all united, the one Fatherhood of God…. As the song goes ‘We are all God’s Children’.”
The Catholic church has also set a youth summit on pope’s visit in Tacloban inviting all youths regardless of their religious affiliations.
Other non-Catholic church leaders also expressed enthusiasm and openness on the papal coming.
Ricardo Aban, leader of the Mormon church in Tacloban, said he is “glad that somehow the faith among the Catholic church will be rejuvenated because of the Papal visit.”
“I have never seen excitement among the people and how they tried to be better as individuals in reverence for the visit of the very person who represents the people before God. Maybe as Taclobanon you get carried away with the excitement of the people around you,” he said.
“I’m happy for my Catholic brothers and sisters because of the love and concern that the Catholic church is paying attention to its congregation,” he said.
According to Aban, Pope Francis’ visit to the country and Leyte, in particular, “is somehow consoling to the survivors, regardless of differences of religion.”
“This is a clear message that whatever religion or faith we belong to, our divine Heavenly Father is mindful of us touching religious leaders to uplift the troubled hearts of the people, especially in places like ours which experienced tremendous trauma and lost many lives,” Aban stressed.
Apollo Pan, a young Taiwanese volunteer from Buddhist group Tzu Chi, who is closely monitoring their various Yolanda-rehabilitation projects in Leyte, disclosed that Tzu Chi Foundation was alloted 60 seats during the papal mass at Tacloban airport.
“His coming here is a big help, and I think it really makes people good. He is considered a model and if anybody is willing to learn from him, I think it is really good,” Pan said, stressing also that the papal visit activities “may have helped in quickening the pace of some rehabilitation efforts of the government in typhoon hit areas.”
“The government is now fixing the street lights, roads, canals and other infrastructures hit by the storm,” Pan added.
Aside from its multi-million Yolanda response projects, Tzu Chi also helped in restoring Catholic church structures in Leyte, like the Sto. Nino Church in Tacloban where they donated over P30 million.
Meanwhile, Marissa German, a Catholic parent from Palo, said that local residents should take the opportunity to join the various papal visit activities in the town.
“We should be excited, even people from distant places are excited to come to our town for the event,” she said, adding that for her the papal visit is “a miracle.”
“The pope made it specific that he will visit Tacloban and Palo, Yolanda’s hardest areas. This will inspire and give hope to all the survivors. Although I believe that Pope Francis coming will not bring closure to the tragedy considering that a memory on the experience of Yolanda is a lifetime, the pope’s visit will surely inspire us that we are special people loved by God because Pope Francis is representing Jesus Christ,” she said