ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: January 22, 2019 08:25 AM GMT
Pope Francis waves to the crowd during his visit to the Philippines in 2015. (Photo by Joe Torres)
Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines plan to invite Pope Francis for another visit in 2021 for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country.
Father Marvin Mejia, secretary-general of the bishops' conference, said the bishops’ invitation would be discussed during this week's prelate plenary assembly.
"It will be finalized there," said Father Mejia, adding that he has no idea whether the pontiff would accept the invitation considering he has already visited the country in 2015.
"What is important is that there should be an invitation and a program set for 2021," said the priest.
Preparations for the special year in 2021, which marks the fifth centenary or 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines, is expected to be among the issues that will be discussed during the bishops' meeting.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, however, said Pope Francis would most likely not accept the invitation. The prelate said it is "very seldom" that a pontiff visits a country twice.
Pope Francis was in the Philippines in January 2015 to visit areas devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
"I doubt if the pope will accept the invitation, not so much because of [President Rodrigo Duterte's] attacks against the church but because [the pope] already visited our country five years ago," said Bishop Bastes.
The prelate, however remained optimistic and said Pope Francis might consider accepting an invitation because of the significance of the 2021 celebrations.
It could happen "because of the historical impact of [Ferdinand Magellan's] evangelization of our country," said Bishop Bastes.