MANILA, Philippines — The city is abuzz with expectation and preparations for Pope Francis’ arrival this evening.
The papal motorcade route from the airport is barricaded. Many streets are already closed for security reasons. The police are out in force.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has been leading this predominantly Catholic nation in prayers and reflection for months. But Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle issued a new prayer text yesterday. It reads in part:
“God our Father we pray to you for good weather and clear skies when our beloved Pope Francis lands on our shores. We pray especially that when he encounters the people of Tacloban it will be under fair and comfortable situations, so that all may experience fully the warmth of his presence. We know that nothing is impossible to you and we ask this of you with humble and contrite hearts, but confident always of your solicitude and providence.”
The cardinal’s prayer did not come out of the blue. He wrote it when meteorologists were still providing a variety of scenarios for a storm east of the Philippines and heading this way.
By the time the newspapers were published late last night, though, the weather bureau said Tropical Storm Amang, also called Mekkhala — with sustained winds of 40 miles an hour and gusts up to 50 mph — was unlikely to make landfall. However, rain is predicted in Tacloban Saturday, the day Pope Francis is planning to travel there to meet survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.
“Let us implore the God of creation to clear the skies when Pope Francis arrives and stays in Tacloban so that all who are there will experience comfort as they welcome and listen to his message,” Cardinal Tagle wrote in a note to his priests and faithful.
Prayers are important, but so is planning. The Philippine security services announced weeks ago that no one would be admitted to a papal event carrying an umbrella — not for shade, not for rain. But no fear: the Archdiocese of Palo, which includes Tacloban, has secured the donation of 1 million plastic raincoats and ponchos. They will be distributed to the crowds.