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Activists urge Francis to see real face of poverty in Philippines

Say they fear the pontiff will be shielded from true plight of the poor

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: January 05, 2015 09:57 AM GMT

Updated: April 22, 2015 01:43 AM GMT

Activists urge Francis to see real face of poverty in Philippines

A family walks past a poster in a Manila train station advertising the visit of Pope Francis to the country (Photo by Eloisa Lopez)

Christian activists on Monday expressed concerns that Pope Francis would not be allowed to witness the dire poverty that so many in the Philippines must endure.

Einstein Recedes, spokesman for the Student Christian Movement, said he hoped the pope would “diverge from his official itinerary and make surprise visits to urban poor and peripheral communities” during a papal trip to the country later this month.

“We fear that the government will not let his holiness truly witness the dire situation of the vast majority of Filipinos living in poverty," he told ucanews.com on Monday.

Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from January 15-19, during which he will spend one day in typhoon-ravaged Leyte province and the remainder of his visit in Manila, according to the official Vatican itinerary.

Recedes said the message of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines "should not be clouded by bureaucracy and stuffy official itineraries, vagaries which the pontiff himself just recently denounced in his annual message to the Roman Curia".

"We urge Pope Francis to surprise the Filipino people by paying a visit to the darkest corners of Philippine society, where the hope and love he harbors is needed the most," said Recedes.

The pope’s itinerary includes a visit with President Benigno Aquino at the presidential palace on January 16 — a meeting, the presidential spokesman said would not focus on politics.

"Among the president’s major advocacies are achieving inclusive growth for everyone, reducing poverty, and fighting graft and corruption," spokesman Herminio Coloma said at a press briefing on Monday, adding that these issues would form the substance of talks with the pontiff.

The student group has joined ranks with farmers, factory workers and others to form what they are calling the “People’s Committee to Welcome the Pope”.

Florida Sibayan, an agricultural leader in Tarlac province, said her community has been fighting for a just resolution to land disputes for decades.

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“We get nothing but more injustice, landlessness and impunity,” she told ucanews.com on Monday, adding that she hoped Pope Francis would issue a statement supporting the long struggle for land rights by the country’s many landless communities.

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