Theme of the Apostolic Visit: ‘Mercy and Compassion’Pope Francis will visit the Philippines primarily to comfort Filipinos devastated by the typhoon and the earthquake that hit the Visayas.

This visit calls to mind what Jesus did as recounted in the Gospel.  In Matthew 9:36, Jesus after “seeing the people, felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”

And like the Good Shepherd of Whom he is the Vicar here on earth, the Holy Father saw the suffering of his flock. He felt compassion and comes to us bringing “the joy of the gospel” to revive our “drooping spirit” and to lead us to greener pastures (cf. Psalm 23).

The message the Holy Father brings with him challenges us to imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd, who is Mercy and Compassion.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis proclaims that “the Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium 114). Thus, the Holy Father’s visit is to bring Christ’s compassion for our suffering people still struggling to rise from the devastations wrought by the earthquake and the typhoon that hit the Visayas last year.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, said the most distinctive way to prepare spiritually for the coming of Pope Francis is for the country to become “a people rich in mercy.”

“Our compassionate shepherd comes to show his deep concern for our people who have gone through devastating calamities, especially in the Visayas. He comes to confirm us in our faith as we face the challenges of witnessing the Joy of the Gospel in the midst of our trials. This is an eloquent way of showing mercy and compassion,” Archbishop Villegas said.

Filipinos as a preparation for the papal visit resolve to make an act of mercy everyday, such as giving food to the hungry, helping build homes for the disaster victims, visiting prisoners or patients in the charity ward of hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, homes for the elderly, and orphanages.  It is a time to re-learn and live the Spiritual and Corporal Acts of Mercy.  Further, the bishops encourage us to meet Christ, Mercy Himself, in the Tribunal of Mercy, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  There, in the person of the priest, He awaits us with open arms to show us His mercy, compassion and love.

“Let us make mercy our national identity. Trust in God’s mercy is part and parcel of our traditional Filipino Christian culture. Let us make the practice of mercy our gift to the pope when he comes to visit us,” the CBCP president said at that time.

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