By Leslie Ann Aquino
Philippine Catholic Church leaders are planning to again invite Pope Francis in the country for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity here in 2021.
Members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines will actually discuss the said plan in their upcoming Plenary Assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Paco, Manila this weekend.
“That will be discussed in the plenary. It will be finalized there,” Father Marvin Mejia, CBCP secretary general, said in an interview.
Asked if he thinks the pontiff will accept such an invitation since he already visited the country in 2015, Mejia said he has no idea.
“I have no idea,” he said.
“What is important is that there should be an invitation and program already ahead of 2021,” added Mejia.
However, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes doubts if the Holy Father will accept such an invitation not because of the attacks of President Duterte against the church rather because it’s very seldom that a pontiff visits a country twice.
“I doubt if the Pope will accept the invitation not so much because of Duterte’s attack against the Church but because he had already visited our country five years ago,” he said in an interview.
“It is very seldom that a Pope visits a particular country twice. However it must be noted that when the new Pope Francis came to the Philippines five years ago, it was he who volunteered to come in view of the big catastrophe caused by Yolanda. We were so happy that his voluntary visit was treated by us like a State visit,” added Bastes.
But, the prelate said the pontiff might still consider accepting the invitation given the significance of the event.
“Because of the historical impact of Magellan’s evangelization of our country, Pope Bergoglio might still consider to accept the invitation to celebrate with us the commemoration of the Introduction of Christianity to our country!” Bastes said.
To note, Pope Francis came here in the country for an Apostolic Visit in January 2015 to bring Christ’s compassion to the victims of typhoon Yolanda and earthquake in the Visayas.