Excitement hangs in the air as the Filipino nation fetes the coming of the ”People’s Pope”. Everyone has his/her prepared phrase in case of a face-to-face encounter with the endeared visitor—mostly, asking intercession for some exclusive personal problem or tribulation, such as cure or wellness from cancer-ridden member of the family, or survival from misery and pain, or even acquittal of a criminal case— anything that could translate into a sense of personal well-being, comfort or grace.
There was only one, an elderly woman, among the ordinary folks being interviewed by a TV reporter who said she would ask the Pope to pray for peace and harmony to the nation. And I was all alone in my house to applaud her.
In a country besieged by social troubles of all sorts—from abject poverty to drug addiction, to graft and corruption, to religious fanaticism, to calamities, to rebellion—it is but natural that the ones worst hit by the over-all underdevelopment and stagnation would grasp, exclusively and individually, at the tiniest straw of hope for survival, let alone wellbeing.
The promise of “mercy and compassion” that the good Pope Francis has rendered in sparkles in the way he has pursued his evangelical mission should and must be bestowed to the downtrodden—the poor, the deprived, the oppressed, the exploited, the neglected and the persecuted, They ‘re supposed to be the beneficiaries of this missionary journey of the Pontiff. And we can understand the personalized prayer for material and spiritual blessing on their lips; these are an overflow from their hearts’ deep deep longing for relief from suffering.
But the well-to-do who yearn and beg for a privilege to be beside or to be as near the Pontiff as possible, what are they after? Or they from high places who want to grab recognition and be seen in physical propinquity to the Pope, what vainglorious motives flow from their interiority on this rare occasion? They had better look around them and behold the miserable state of the impoverished and downtrodden. They are the objects of Pope Francis’ trips. The movie actors and actresses, much more so the politicians—who have acquired not just fame but luxury… they may not seek for a selfie or a groufie with Pope Francis to snatch the limelight. Not them—them with their inordinate desire for privilege and penchant for empty show of piety! OMG! Nakakasuka!
Lest the Filipino nation forgets—the primary purpose of Pope Francis’ visit is to commune with the victims of calamities, chiefly the victims of Yolanda super typhoon. With the overacting Government putting up all those forbidding barricades and other security props, this prime purpose seems to be obscured and relegated to the background. What takes prominent position is the expensive props and exaggerated acts of government that in effect would only “disenfranchise” the ordinary people who should be in the “front seats” so to speak. The politicians and movie stars are trying to steal the attention and concern of the Pope.
The Government officials, chief among them, President Noynoy, should have refrained from unnecessary extravagant show of the State’s security forces and rob the lowly citizens of their a priori encounter with the Pope. Well, they reason out that they want to avert untoward incidents and show to the world that we are a disciplined people? It’s almost like a ridiculous oxymoron—a stupid act, because the display of mammoth security force reveals the very lack of such virtue they purport to show.
Discipline? That’s a virtue devoutly to be wished, and had better be left to dictators to be decreed and have their words splatter as sputum on their faces. No! No discipline can ever be borne as fruit of a leadership that thrives on puppetry and corruption, hypocrisy, cajolery and deception— held as virtues for the perpetuation of a nation hailed as pearl of the orient seas. Let the virtue of discipline reside in the hearts and will of the people who most need them. And everybody follows.
The excitement exhibited by everyone is already drowned by the “military security surge”, even before the beloved “people’s visitor” has arrived. Pope Francis himself might be out of breath under this military deluge.
If “mercy and compassion” is the banner slogan of the visiting Pontiff, then let that translate into its most meaningful action by a collective prayer to transform the dire state of our nation’ into a truly just and free society—free from hunger , free from a militarized countryside where soldiers kill, maim and torture the poorest among the poor with impunity, free from all forms of inhumanity and indignitiy. Then when “fate and destiny”, by the Pontiff’s and the People’s prayerful, unified and revolutionary action, shall have established a truly just, truly sovereign , truly progressive society, we shall have no need of “mercy and compassion”.