Estimated 8 Million Crowd For Pope Francis Manila Visit To Break WYD 1995 Record Of 5 Million

By @vitthernandez on
Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he disembarks from a passenger jet with an aide upon arrival at Villamor Air Base for a state and pastoral visit, in Manila January 15, 2015. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of the Philippines capital of Ma
Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he disembarks from a passenger jet with an aide upon arrival at Villamor Air Base for a state and pastoral visit, in Manila January 15, 2015. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of the Philippines capital of Manila on Thursday to welcome Pope Francis on his first visit to Asia's largest Catholic nation amid one of the biggest security operations in the country's history. REUTERS/Erik De Castro (PHILIPPINES - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY)

Being a holiday in Metro Manila, millions of Filipinos lined-up the streets where Pope Francis passed on Thursday night from his arrival at the airport to his accommodation at the Apostolic Nunciature.

Many residents, with some coming from nearby province, waited for hours to have a few seconds glimpse of the pontiff from morning even if his flight from Sri Lanka was scheduled to arrive in Manila at 7 p.m.

YouTube/euronews (in English)

The throngs of people was a grand welcome for the rock star head of the 2-billion strong Roman Catholic Church, indicating the big numbers to expect in the next four days in his first pastoral visit to the Philippines, the third-largest Roman Catholic country in the world.

In his farewell mass on Jan 19 at the Quirino Grandstand by the Manila Bay, a crowd of 8 million is expected to show up. The number of people is expected to break the record set by Pope John Paul II who was in the same spot 20 years ago for the World Youth Day 1995 closing mass where 5 million people came.

That crowd was the largest gathering in Catholic Church history that Pope John Paul II had to take a helicopter from the nunciature to the grandstand because it was impossible to transport him by land.

For Monday, the numbers are expected to go up and break the 1995 world record, says Fr Xavier Alpasa, a Jesuit - the same religious order as Pope Francis - and professor at Ateneo de Manila University.

He explains, quoted by the New York Times, "That record will be broken because of the deep spirituality of Filipino Catholics, but also because of Pope Francis himself. People are so enamored by his inclusive statements, his revolutionary ideas, his compassion."

His liberal attitude toward a lot of doctrines is also being applied in the Philippine church, observes academics and church workers.

Despite the church opposition to the reproductive health bill passed by Congress, Philippine Women's University lecturer Nancy Felipe notes, "There was no sort of discrimination in the church against the women who supported the reproductive health bill."

Joseph Zaldivar, a seminarian at the Archdiocese of Manila, also pointed out that gays and live-in couples serve in their parish and are welcome.

Ahead of his Asian tour, the pope also delved on the Paris Massacre in which three gunmen with links to extremist Islamic organisations strafed the office of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people.

YouTube/ROME REPORTS in English

On his flight aboard the Sri Lankan Airlines, the pope showed once more his mercy and compassion - the theme of his five-day pastoral visit to the Philippines - when he said, "No one can kill in the name of God. This is an aberration," quotes the Wall Street Journal.

But at the same time, he adds, "There is a limit to freedom of expression."

He compares the situation to someone insulting his mother. "One cannot react violently, but if [someone] says something bad about my mother, he can expect a punch. There are a lot of people who speak badly about other religions. They make fun of them. What happens in what happens with my friend [who insults my mother]. There is a limit."

To contact the writer, email: v.hernandez@ibtimes.com.au