The person of the Holy Father is very dear and endearing. His papal office is most appreciated as it is also most respected in the Catholic world. That is why his presence cannot but be much desired and treasured. More than once, the Philippines was blessed by the visit of the Holy Father. Those singular occasions are still remembered with genuine love and lasting inspiration.
That is why when it was recently reported that Pope Benedict XVI was invited to make papal visit to the country, the common and immediate reaction appeared to be joyful anticipation and expectation. And this is very understandable, considering that majority of the Filipinos are Catholics and the Holy Father is the Supreme Pontiff of the universal church.
But on second thought, it might be more prudent if he would waive the presumed honor and seeming pleasure of accepting the invitation. There are good reasons for entertaining this reservation. There are many serious “caveat” arguing the non-acceptance of the proposed visit.
There is the mater of one travel advisory after another issued by a good number of foreign governments to their citizens advising them formally that the Philippines is not a safe place to go to. Killings and abductions. Angry rallies and their violent dispersals. Terrorist threats. Syndicated crimes. There are but some of the dated dangerous happenings in the country.
The truth is that even a local Aglipayan bishop was killed. Pastors were also killed or are in hiding. Even foreign catholic priests are not spared from unceremonious murder and sudden abduction. Yesterday an Italian catholic priest disappeared. More than the question of who did the killing and abduction, the fact remains that these uncivilized deeds continue to happen in the country.
Furthermore, the administration is not exactly known for integrity and honesty in the handling of funds especially when staging big public events. The truth is that it has become an expert in graft and corruption—such that the Philippines was recently given the shameful and disgusting title of being the first placer in corruption in the whole Asian region. A case in point was the much trumpeted 12th Asian Summit held but January last—right after which came the reported “Cebu lamppost scam.” No less than some 1,800 lampposts were purchased and installed for the occasion. While each only costs from 7 to 9 thousand pesos, the government was reported to have spent no less than 300,000.00 per lamppost!
That is why a papal visit to the country might be neither wise nor prudent these times. The country is anything but safe and crime free. The visit will give the government officials the salivating occasion to make money for themselves. Furthermore, a papal visit would dignify a national leadership that is suffering from dire lack of moral ascendancy not to mention its big socio-political liabilities.
11 March 2007