One of the reasons Pope Francis will be visiting the Philippines in a few weeks is to visit survivors of typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), the strongest typhoon in history (so far). But from the way things are shaping up, it seems the main purpose of his visit won’t be realized at all.
Okay, so if we are going to be literal, then I am wrong. Pope Francis will get to meet some survivors for a few minutes. But based on his background, it’s safe to assume that he didn’t leave the Vatican just to shake hands with some people.
The Pope has become a center of public attention for speaking out on issues such as corruption, globalization, the environment, and capitalism, to name a few. It’s also been rumoured that he’s about to speak up on climate change.
In other words, it is very much possible that he wants to put a human face to his advocacies. He wants to see and understand how climate change and environmental degradation (Yolanda), corruption (DSWD and the government’s relief efforts post-Yolanda), and globalization (prevalent poverty in the Philippines) has affected people at the local level.
How can he achieve this objective when the only opportunities for some survivors to talk to Pope Francis is a one-to-two-hour lunch a one-hour meeting? That’s a total of five days or 120 hours and all the survivors will be getting is, at best, three hours?
Even worse, there have been rumors (from a person whose credibility on this matter I could vouch for) that the national government and the military is planning to blockade the San Juanico Bridge during the upcoming Papal Visit on Jan. 15 to 19. The purpose? To prevent Yolanda survivors belonging to the ‘People Surge’ organization, and coming from Samar Island from getting to Tacloban City and create an ‘unplanned’ dialogue between them and Pope Francis.
In fact, it would have been better if a representative/s from People Surge were allowed in the dialogue with the Pope. Instead of talking to people who probably represent their families, why not talk to those who speak for tens of thousands of other people? Given that the time allocated for the typhoon survivors (ironically, the main reason for the visit) is very little, this is a way to maximize the limited time.
Some Church officials will argue that People Surge is a ‘communist organization’. Even if it were true (since the accusation was first hatched by Sec. Ping Lacson when criticisms on the government’s incompetence in its recovery programs), then these Church officials are clearly not listening to the #1 man of their organization.
The Pope has criticized capitalism and globalization and has said that he shares many things in common with Marxists. Substitute Francis with an ordinary Filipino, and your typical Internet troll will say “Kimunista rin yan!” And besides, the Pope has previous called for ‘unity’ with members of other religions, so he doesn’t give a damn if he’s talking to Communists.
Majority of Filipinos are Catholics (including our government officials). But sadly, these Catholics, as well as some Church officials, are showing themselves to be Catholics in name only. Instead of reflecting on, and following the teachings of the Pope, they are hell-bent on stage-managing the entire Papal visit because only God knows what happens with the most radical Pope in history meets some of his local counterparts in the Philippines.