15 January 2015
Last updated at 10:17
Pope Francis has arrived in the Philippines for a five-day visit to the nation’s 80 million Roman Catholics.
He was met at Manila airport by President Benigno Aquino while church bells tolled nationwide to welcome him.
The highlight of the Pope’s visit will be a huge open air Mass in Manila on Sunday and a visit to Tacloban to meet survivors of a devastating typhoon in November 2013.
Security will be tight after failed attempts to kill two previous Popes.
Tens of thousands of soldiers and police have been deployed.
Pope Francis, the fourth pontiff to visit the Philippines, travelled from Sri Lanka, where he called for unity in the conflict-hit nation and canonised its first saint.
Most of the Philippine population is Roman Catholic
Preparations have been taking place for days across the nation
Major security preparations have been put in place to safeguard Pope Francis
Eighty percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Catholic. Huge crowds are expected at each stage of the visit – hundreds of thousands of people are lining his route from the airport.
A three-day public holiday has been declared in the capital to clear the traffic.
“Every step he makes, every car ride he takes, every moment he stays with us is precious for us,” said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. “Seeing him pass by is a grace.”
Pope Francis’s Philippines schedule
- Thursday – arrives in Manila
- Friday – meets President Benigno Aquino and celebrates Mass in Manila Cathedral
- Saturday – heads to Tacloban, to celebrate Mass and have lunch with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. Returns to Manila that evening.
- Sunday – morning meeting with representatives of various religions and with young people, before celebrating Mass for up to six million people in Rizal Park
Pope Francis will spend one day in Tacloban, where more than 6,000 people were killed by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The area is still rebuilding from the massive storm.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, said he expected the Pope to deliver a message on climate change – to which some experts have partly attributed the storm.
Asked whether the Pope would address issues such as inequality, reproductive rights and divorce, he said: “His ministry is not to invent new teachings but he is quite sensitive – he wants to bridge the teachings of the Church with the new realities that we are facing.”
In Tacloban, the Pope will meet a group of typhoon survivors
The Church is dominant in the Philippines, where a major gap exists between rich and poor
Several million people are expected to attend the open-air Mass in the capital’s Rizal Park on Sunday. Organisers say crowds could exceed the five million who gathered for a Mass by Pope John Paul II in 1995.
Military chief General Gregorio Catapang said up to 40,000 security personnel would be tasked with keeping the Pope safe.
“There needs to be a balance between having the Pope meet up with the flock and meeting all the members of the Church and all others who have been invited to attend the public events, as well as at least keeping him away from danger,” he said.
Mr Aquino, in a televised address on Monday, urged all Filipinos to help protect the Pope.
In 1970, a Bolivian painter stabbed Pope Paul VI as he arrived in Manila, wounding him. In 1995, a week before Pope John Paul II’s visit, police thwarted a plot by Muslim extremists to bomb his motorcade.