Unless otherwise decided for whatever supervening cause to the contrary, Pope Francis is formally scheduled to make an Apostolic Visit to the Philippines – come 15-19 January 2015 – to personally meet and be with the people who are still suffering much on account of the devastating calamity that hit and brought havoc to the Visayas. It is not a secret that the said people are still lamenting much from the loss of lives of their loved ones plus the destruction of their modest properties and resources.
That is why the Pope himself is coming. His decision to come is inspiring and edifying. But just the same, the Papal travel to and from the Philippines will be long and tiring. His option is subject to may unforeseen circumstances. But come he will as the Delegate of Christ, as someone representing Him Who Is God of mercy and compassion. Prayers are needed to make his visit a reality, to bear the heavy cross with the suffering people, to ascertain the safety of his person.
Needless to say, the Office of the Papacy – having Christ Himself behind it, having been tested for some two thousand years and having coverage of the Church all over the world – cannot but be a multi-faceted reality. It is also for this reason that the Pope has and fulfills a good number of signal Offices with their respective concerns and agenda for the welfare of the Universal Church. And among his other Titles of Offices with their respective obligations and authority, the Pope is the Vicar of Christ.
Thus provides Church Law: “The Office committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome. He is the Vicar of Christ and the Pastor of the Universal Church.” (Canon 331 CIC). In other words, Christ as the Founder of the Church is represented by someone who acts in his Name. So it is that the Pope being the Delegate of Christ is the Vicar of the Latter – the Alter Christus or someone standing in the name of Christ.
“Successor of St. Peter”, “Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church”, and “Patriarch of the West” are among the other Offices of the Pope. He is also the head of the Vatican City State, Europe as affirmed by the Geneva Conventions. This is why Countries considered as “Catholic” has Ambassadors to Rome, the Holy See, in the same way that the latter also has Ambassadors to the said Countries known as “Apostolic Nuncios”.
This is why although the Visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines has the ecclesiastical nature of “Apostolic”, the same occasion as its civil diplomatic implications precisely because he is the Head of Vatican State. But be that as it may, Pope Francis is coming for a specifically apostolic or pastoral visit as Vicar of Christ.