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Historical First Papal Visit

Philippine history was made richer with the unprecedented visit of Pope Paul VI on November 27-29, 1970 as part of his lengthy Asian journey. This event became the first of four papal visits: Paul VI (1970); John Paul II (1981 and 1995), and Francis (2015).

On his arrival, Paul VI noted his happiness in visiting the Philippines: “Here we are in the Philippines, in this great land so dear to our heart….  We express our affectionate greeting, and our great joy at having been given the grace to come to you and our deep desire to proclaim our attachment to your people who, in the course of history, have given proof in such a wonderful way of the depth of their faith.”

After the welcome ceremonies, the first stop of Pope Paul VI was the Manila Cathedral.  He spoke affectionate words: “What a great joy it is for the Pope to see you all gathered here in this sacred place of prayer.  Our first wish is to render heartfelt homage to the generations of missionaries who, from the first beginnings, have built up this admirable Christian community of the Philippines.”

Proclaiming Christ.  On November 29, 1970 the Pope journeyed to the Quezon Memorial Circle for a public Mass.  He remarked: “I, Paul, the successor of Saint Peter, charged with the pastoral mission for the whole Church….  [am] convinced of Christ: yes, I feel the need to proclaim him.  I cannot keep silent.  ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.’ (1 Cor. 9:16)  I am sent by him, by Christ himself, to do this.  I am an apostle.  I am a witness….  I must bear witness to his name…. He is the companion and the friend of our life.”

“Jesus Christ: you have heard him spoken of; indeed, the greater part of you are already his; you are Christians.  So, to you, Christians, I repeat his name; to everyone I proclaim him….  I have the happy duty to proclaim … the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.”  

Visiting the Poor.  Paul VI also visited the Tondo district of Manila where many of the city’s slum dwellers live.  Speaking to the crowds, he said: “I am head of the Catholic Church and its servant and I feel it my duty to proclaim here before you that the Church loves you who are poor.”

Then the Pope added: “What does it mean to say that the Church loves you?  It means that the Church recognizes first of all your dignity as human beings, as children of God….  She recognizes, moreover, that preference is due to you, because your needs are many.”  Succinctly stated: as the Church-in-mission, we are called to both proclaim Christ and generously serve the poor and needy! 

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