Efforts to invite Pope Francis to visit the Philippines were started when the pope was enthroned: Cardinal Luis Tagle personally requested the pontiff to visit the Philippines on the day of his inauguration as pope.
In a pastoral letter dated 7 July 2014, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines announced the theme of the papal visit, "A Nation of Mercy and Compassion." The theme was later shortened to "Mercy and Compassion".
Philippine authorities planned to mobilize about 37,500 police and military personnel during the papal visit. 7,000 troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines plus 5,000 reservists, 25,000 police officers and a 450-man security force which had recently returned from United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Golan Heights and Liberia were among those responsible for security during the visit in Manila, Tacloban and Palo. Snipers were also deployed in buildings along Roxas Boulevard in Manila.
The Philippine government coordinated with Interpol and other Southeast Asian states to monitor people who may have been on Interpol's watch list of those who went to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State militant group. "We're touching base with so many allies to try and see... identify any threat whatsoever coming from any direction," President Benigno Aquino III commenting the country's coordination efforts with Interpol and other Southeast Asian countries.
The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States and the Vatican had also sent intelligence agents to the Philippines to assess the security situation in the country ahead of the papal visit.
On January 22, it was revealed by Philippine authorities that a plot to detonate a bomb on the papal convoy by Jemaah Islamiyah was foiled weeks prior to the papal visit. The plan was foiled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Along with local authorities, the Swiss Guards tasked to guard the pope's personal security were also instrumental to the foiling of the plot. The plot was validated by intelligence counterparts from neighboring countries.
Additional deployment to key areas by the military was made following the foiled attack. Part of the Light Reaction Company, which received training assistance from the United States, and military armored assets were deployed particularly during Pope Francis's mass at Luneta. Security forces also made changes to their preparation to mislead potential attackers. The foiled plot was also the reason for the intentional jamming of cellular signals around areas where the Pope visited.
The Department of Public Works and Highways utilized at least 23,000 concrete barriers along the route the pope took around Metro Manila to restrain the crowd from blocking the pope's motorcade. Each barrier measures about 1.25 meters high, while some concrete barriers were borrowed from the North and South Luzon Expressways. During Pope John Paul II's visit to the country, devotees rushed into the streets slowing down or stopping the pope's motorcade. The measures to install concrete barriers were meant to prevent such kind of incident.
11,000 barangay officials and 5,000 parishioners from Manila formed as part of a human barricade to secure the pope. These 16,000 volunteers wore uniforms to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd. 5,000 students from the University of Santo Tomas also volunteered to become part of a human barricade during the pope's visit to the university.
Filipina singer Jamie Rivera sang "We Are All God's Children", the official theme song for the Papal visit. The song's theme is about "humility" and "solidarity with the poor and mercy to the weak". A music video was made available to YouTube.
Metro ManilaVenues within Metro Manila
Venues in Leyte
Pope Francis, who came from a papal visit to Sri Lanka, arrived in Manila through Villamor Air Base riding a chartered Airbus A340-300 of the SriLankan Airlines. He was welcomed by President Benigno Aquino III and several other government officials and church leaders. The pope arrived in the country at 5:32 pm PST about 13 minutes ahead of his expected arrival time. For 15 minutes, which started at 5:30 pm PST, all Catholic Churches around the country rang their bells as ordered by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines head, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan which signaled the pope's arrival in the country.
The pope was welcomed at the air base by 1,200 students from different Catholic schools under the Diocese of Parañaque which covers the cities of Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Muntinlupa. A performance was done by the students for the welcoming dancing to the tunes; Piliin Mo ang Pilipinas sung by Angeline Quinto, Kapayapaan by Tropical Depression, and Sayaw ng Pagbati. The said songs are traditionally performed during Easter Sunday in Parañaque.
A delegation of religious officials and politicians also welcomed the pope. The following were present during the pope's arrival in Villamor:
The pope then proceeded to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, which served as the pope's official residence during his stay in the country by an open-air popemobile. On his way to the nunciature, the pope was welcomed by thousands of people, devotees, and enthusiasts who were awaiting for his arrival.
The pope rode a "close and more formal" Volkswagen Touran to the Malacañang Palace instead of the pope mobile due to the nature of his visit to the presidential palace. The pope still rolled down the window of the car to wave to people waiting to have a glimpse of him. He went to Malacañang as the head of state of the Vatican and had a courtesy call with President Benigno Aquino III at the venue. The pontiff met with diplomats and officials at the Rizal Memorial Hall.
President Benigno Aquino III made a speech before the rest of the people in attendance at Malacañang including Pope Francis. On his speech, Aquino narrated his view on the role of the local Church in the recent history of the country. He acknowledged the major role the local Church played in opposing President Ferdinand Marcos and criticized undemocratic policies highlighted by Marcos's downfall following the aftermath of the People Power Revolution. However, Aquino criticized the local Church for its alleged inaction against "abuses" by "previous administrations" and for lobbying against the Reproductive Health Law even before its passage as a law. Aquino criticized the local Church for allegedly being over critical of him with some members of the local clergy "telling him to do something about balding hair". The president later changed his tone and praised the pope. The speech by Aquino later turned out to be controversial and drew mixed reception among netizens.
After Aquino's speech, Francis made his first public speech of his Philippine visit and tackled the issue of corruption in the country. He urged that political leaders must adhere to "outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good." He added that they must listen to the concerns of the poor and tackle the "glaring and indeed scandalous social inequalities" in society. The pope also called on Filipinos "at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community". The pope also hailed the resilliency of millions of Filipinos who were affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). "This visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured and suffered loss and devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda," Francis said, using the local name of the typhoon. "I admire the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of natural disaster," the pope added.
The pope later rode the popemobile going to the Manila Cathedral to hold a Mass. Pope Francis, with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, privately met with street children guided by the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation at the Manila Cathedral for about fifteen minutes before he held a mass at the cathedral. This is after children from the foundation sent 1,000 letters requesting the pope to meet with them in person. The Mass which Francis held at the cathedral was closed to the public with only 1,500 selected people composing of bishops, priests, nuns and seminarians plus 500 laypersons. In his homily, Pope Francis highlighted the role of the Catholic Church in addressing the issues of inequality and injustice and leading the Philippine society from the "confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and family." The attendees led by Manila Archbishop and Cardinal Luis Tagle welcomed the pope. Tagle also relates the history of the Cathedral, which was rebuilt numerous times after being destroyed numerous times due to natural and manmade calamities, to the resilience of the Filipino people. Authorities estimated that about 22,000 people stayed outside the cathedral during the mass; 12,000 at Plaza Roma and 10,000 in auxiliary streets. In an unexpected move, Pope Francis used the side doors, instead of the front door, of the cathedral as his exit after the Mass and walked towards Gen. Luna Street of Intramuros to visit the street children of Anak-TnK. The pope returned to the Apostolic Nunciature before heading towards the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The pope made a meeting with families at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. Each of the 86 dioceses were tasked to send a delegate of 100 people for the meeting with the families. In addition, 300 people from the poor sector, were selected by the Caritas Manila to attend the event, who were assigned to occupy the center of the arena directly facing the pope. Pope Francis, who stood on the arena's platform during the event, also requested to the event organizers that no people shall be seated at his back prior to the meeting.
Back at the Apostolic Nunciature, Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself, accommodated 40 Filipino Jesuits. The Filipino Jesuits were privately informed of the meeting and only disclosed the meeting to the public after the gathering itself.
Pope Francis departed from Villamor Air Base at 7:37 am PST for Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban, Leyte on a chartered Airbus A320 flight operated by Philippine Airlines, arriving in Tacloban at approximately 8:50 am PST, where he was welcomed by Palo Archbishop John F. Du. The pope's trip to Leyte was shortened as decided by the Vatican due to Tropical Storm Mekkhala (Amang). Leyte had been placed under storm signal no. 2 earlier in the morning by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. The pontiff held a Holy Mass on a stage which was set up at the Tacloban airport. The stage, specifically made for the papal Mass, is primarily made of sawali or bamboo mats. Among the languages used during the Mass were Waray, Cebuano, English, Filipino, Hiligaynon, Latin, and Spanish.
He had lunch with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) and the earlier Bohol earthquake at the Archbishop's Residence in Palo. The Pope Francis Center for the Poor also in Palo was blessed by the pope himself during his visit. The facility funded by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum has a clinic, a chapel, a home for the elderly and sick and an orphanage. Construction of the facility was completed in December 2014 after five months of work. The pope had a brief meeting with seminarians, priests, religious community members and families of the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan at the Palo Cathedral and blessed a mass grave of those who were killed due to the typhoon. Francis departed from Tacloban at exactly 1:07 pm PST to Manila. The pope was originally scheduled to depart at 5:00 pm PST. The pope apologized for leaving earlier than scheduled.
The pope arrived back at Villamor Air Base in Manila at around 2:00 pm PST. Francis was received by high-ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police together with their families. Children and the sick lining along the apron were also blessed by the pope.
Pope Francis arrived at the University of Santo Tomas entering the main gate along España Boulevard at around 9:25 am PST. The pope walked through the Arch of the Centuries and met briefly with representatives representing various religions. Among those present were:Nektarios Tsilis of the Metropolitan, Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia;
Venerable Master Hsing Yun, a Buddhist monk representing the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan;
Rabbi Eliyahu Azaria, head of the Jewish Synagogue in Makati;
Maharaj Rajesh Sharma, a Hindu priest;
Ephraim Fajutagana, Obispo Máximo of the Philippine Independent Church and concurrent chair of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines;
Bishop Cesar Vicente Punzalan III, chairman of the board of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches;
Lilian Sison, former UST Graduate School dean member, Religions for Peace – Philippines;
Julkipli Wadi, Dean of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies;
Imam Ebra Moxir, President of the Imam Council of the Philippines;
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, chairman of the Philippine Bible Society
After the meeting, Pope Francis rode the "popemobile", circled around the university, and later met with at least thousands of youth who gathered at the university. About 24,000 youth representatives gathered at the University of Santo Tomas Field near the Grandstand. People from the general public were also present within other parts of the university.
At the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta Park, the pope held his third and concluding mass in the Philippines. The Metro Manila Development Authority said approximately six million people attended the event, exceeding the number of five million attendees during Pope John Paul II's World Youth Day Mass at the same venue in 1995, making the attendance the largest papal gathering in history. After the mass, the crowd sang the 1995 World Youth Day anthem, "Tell the World of His Love", followed by the visit's official theme song, "We Are All God's Children (song)", led by Jamie Rivera.
Pope Francis attended a leave-taking ceremony at the Presidential Pavilion in Villamor Air Base, where he was sent-off by President Benigno Aquino III, his Cabinet secretaries, and a number of Catholic bishops, before flying back to Rome. The pope departed Manila at 10:12 am PST on a chartered Philippine Airlines Airbus A340-300.
With the declaration of special non-working holidays in Metro Manila covering the dates, January 15, 16, and 19, the economy was expected to experience lost revenue of millions of dollars. The business sector has criticized the government for adding too many non-working holidays every year. According to a study by the Makati Business Club conducted in 2014, non-working holidays generally cost the electronics industry ₱1.2 billion (US$26.70 million) per day, citing figures from SEIPI. While the holiday declaration is not nationwide, workers wanting to see the pope will take leaves adding labor cost strains to businesses.
President and CEO of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), Hans Sicat, made calls to the government to halt the addition of holidays as lesser trading days. During the holidays, clearing operations at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas were suspended. However, Sicat said that the central bank agreed to run clearing operations on January 19. Sicat argued that closing during three days of the papal visit would cost the government ₱14 million ($311,457.17) lost in uncollected trading-based government taxes.
Security for the visit, including for physical barriers set up along the 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) route from the air base to downtown Manila, is estimated to have cost the government ₱200 million ($4.5 million) .
Stockbroker Wilson Sy, who manages the Philequity Fund, says that while the papal visit will have minimal direct monetary benefits, it will cause investors to be "reminded" about the country. He noted that Philippine Stock Exchange Index, closed at 7,490.88 on January 14, a record, described by economic analysts as a "papal rally" reflecting positive outlook of local and foreign investors. A successful and peaceful papal visit will increase investor confidence to do business in the country.
MailOnline made an exclusive report on January 14 about alleged children rights violations in Manila in relation to preparations for the papal visit. Philippine police authorities were reported to have rounded up street children some as young as five years old around Metro Manila and sent them to detention centers alongside adults. Detained children were reported to be treated poorly, suffering from physical and sexual abuse, starvation, denied an education and denied basic human dignity. Children who attempted to escape are reportedly chained into pillars if caught. Officials through Pasay City Social Welfare Department chief, Rosalinda Orobia, in response to an inquiry by Manila Standard, asserts that they are rounding up street children to protect the pope from street children gangs. Orabia also said that such actions were done to prevent the gangs from taking advantage of the pope. Manila Standard criticized Orobia's statement claiming that the authorities were more concerned with making the city presentable to the pope on his visit. Father Shay Cullen, who works with street children commented "Sadly, there is no way the Pope will be visiting these detention centers in Manila. They are a shame on the nation. Officials here would be horrified at the prospect of the Pope seeing children treated in this way".
On January 16, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Dinky Soliman denied the reports and asserts that the government does not tolerate such practices reported by MailOnline. Soliman also says that the photos published by the report concerned were photos taken in the past. Soliman said that "Corrective measures have been undertaken since the time that the reports came out." She pointed at a photo of a child, named Federico who was shown to be malnourished. The photo was in fact taken in 2014, nearly 7 months after the child's admission to the Reception and Action Center, and had previously appeared in other international news articles focusing on conditions in the center. "Federico has already gained weight and is being cared for by an NGO with DSWD. We have found his mother and we are currently doing case work management with the mother," Soliman said.
Secretary Soliman has ordered that allegations of children rights abuse in children's centers in Paranaque and Pasay shall be investigated. Regarding The Manila Reception Action Center which was a subject of the report by numerous international news outlets throughout late 2014, and again in relation to the pope's visit, Soliman said that the DSWD is now facilitating the closure of the facility. She stated that its children-residents are being transferred to other non government organizations licensed by the DSWD and facilities managed by the government agency.
Homeless people were temporarily relocated, the government alleges this was to protect them from crime syndicates and not to keep them out of sight.
President Benigno Aquino III's speech at the Malacañang Palace during his courtesy call with Pope Francis turned out to be controversial, drawing mixed response from netizens. Aquino criticized the local Church for its inaction against the "past administration's abuses" which was interpreted as a reference to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Some netizens praised Aquino's honesty while some called Aquino's speech inappropriate and criticized the timing of Aquino's criticism.
Cardinal Luis Tagle described Aquino's speech as a "commentary of previous administration". He noted that many speeches made by Aquino since his presidency referred to the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and how he inherited some issues left by his predecessor. Tagle also stated "I think [Aquino] was coming from a deeply personal experience and also a deeply political experience. The personal experience that shaped that type of interpretation of facts was his own suffering during martial law and his appreciation for role of Church during that time," Tagle was quick to add that focus of the public must be directed at the papal visit since the issue regarding Aquino's speech can be explored after the visit.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi described the speech as "rather original because there is not always such a speech during the formal ceremonies of reception of the Pope". Lombardi also added that the speech was also "very interesting" and showed "two different perspectives"; One of "the politician and of the Pope".A few hours after the mass officiated by the pope in Tacloban, a 27-year-old volunteer named Kristel Mae Padasas working for Catholic Relief Services died at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport after scaffoldings near the altar fell on her.
On January 17, 2015, a Bombardier Global Express plane carrying several Cabinet secretaries of President Benigno Aquino III skidded off the runway of Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban. All the 12 passengers and 3 crew members were safe. The plane bears the aircraft registration, RP-C9363 and was operated by Challenger Aero Corporation Metro Manila.
Ten people suffered minor injuries after an early Sunday morning scuffle broke out at an entrance to the Quirino Grandstand after a group of attendees to the pope's final mass became impatient and tried to gain entry to the venue.