Vatican officials to scout places Pope can visit on Philippines tour

(Photo: Reuters)Accompanied by Philippine President Fidel Ramos (C), then Pope John Paul II who is now a saint inspects the guards of honor at a welcoming ceremony shortly after his arrival at Manila's old international airport on January 12, 1995. Poe Francis is scheduled to visit the Philippines in January 2015.

Vatican officials were set to arrive in the Philippines this week to begin scouting for places to be visited by Pope Francis when he heads to Asia in January next year.

Holy See officials will visit Leyte province, one of the badly hit areas when Typhoon Haiyan cut its path of destruction and havoc in Tacloban City and other towns last year, Palo Archbishop John Du said Monday, Ucanews reported.

Francis will visit the Philippines on the second leg of his Asian tour after stopping off in Sri Lanka.

Du told the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines' news service that the visit by the Vatican team will determine the places the Pope is likely to stop by during his visit to the country in Asia with the biggest Christian population.

"The venues ... are not decided yet because it has to be approved by the Vatican people," the archbishop said.

Likewise, it will be up to the inspecting officials if Francis will go to Palo Cathedral, which sustained massive damage as Haiyan whipped Leyte in November last year, according to Du.

Repair works on the cathedral have been on schedule so far, the Archbishop noted.

On Sunday, he shared the news with the laity in Tacloban City about the upcoming visit of the Pope to the Philippines.

He announced at a Mass he was celebrating that Francis was "tentatively scheduled to visit" the southeast Asian country from January 15 to 20.

In June, Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle explained that the Pope intended to "come close to the people" who suffered in the calamities that hit the Philippines last year.

Aside from Haiyan, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Bohol province a month before the typhoon struck. It also dealt significant damage and casualties to the people there.

Du described the upcoming papal visit as "another big blessing" that would certainly lift the spirits of the survivors still piecing their lives back together.

The predominantly Catholic nation is likewise ecstatic about the papal visit, as the last time a pope flew to the Philippines was in 1995 when St. John Paul II presided over the World Youth Day in Manila.

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