Mercy and compassion at heart of papal visit to Philippines

“Mercy and compassion” will be the theme of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines, where devastation from Typhoon Haiyan is still being felt more than a year later, along with the earthquake that hit the region of Visayas one month earlier.
The theme of the Jan. 15-19 visit refers to Matthew 9:36, where Jesus, after “seeing the people, felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”
The official website for the papal visit states that the pontiff’s message is a challenge “to imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd, who is Mercy and Compassion.”
It also cites Evangelii Gaudium, in which Pope Francis wrote, “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.”
“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,” said the president of the Filipino Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
Filipinos are invited to see the visit as a time to re-learn and live the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“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,” Archbishop Socrates said in a Catholic News Agency report.
More information on the visit can be found at:


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