“I repeat, there will be classes on the 15th, 16th and 17th of January.”
This reminder that there will be classes in our school during the papal visit elicited sighs and frustrated looks.
Looking around the classroom, I saw my classmates loudly proclaiming their annoyance of not being able to see Pope Francis. As a friend, I joined in the laughter that their comments provoked.
As a devout Catholic, however, I wondered whether they truly wanted to see the Pope or just to enjoy a three-day break from the rigors of the International Baccalaureate.
If it’s the latter, what does this say about the values of the youth? In a country with such a strong Catholic presence, I felt the side comments were an offense to the religion and an insight into the values of today’s teenager.
There are Filipinos who have flown back home just to see the Pope. There are Filipinos who are doing everything in their power to see him. But others are looking forward to this highly spiritual, enlightening event as a mere excuse to be absent from school.
However, there were some who were truly disappointed at missing the opportunity to see the leader of the Catholic Church.
A student from Brent International School Manila said: “The Philippines that Pope Francis is visiting now is a lot different from the one that Pope John Paul visited in 1995.”
I believe Pope Francis is the religious world leader who fits perfectly to the needs of our generation. He acknowledged the fact that atheists could be good people, the need to stop discrimination against homosexuals, and the unhealthy obsession many Catholics have with abortion and contraception.
What is most illuminating to me is the fact that the Pope connects with the youth by participating in selfies. The Pope of our generation is a faithful, knowledgeable and compassionate individual who seeks to expose the injustice of this world, eradicating the wrong through the good of Christ.
In visiting the Philippines, the Pope has focused on the suffering Filipinos who have yet to rebuild their lives. The Supertyphoon “Yolanda” survivors are the people the Pope has specially requested to spend time with.
Alec Regino from Brent International School Manila said, “Even though I’m not Catholic, I think the Pope’s visit here will have a positive effect on the nation. Many look to him as an important figure in their religion, and it’s no surprise that millions are flooding the airports for his arrival. Traffic might be unpleasant but if it makes the people practice humility and good morals, then it’s well worth it!”
Another student, Shannon Kerver, said, “I don’t think the visit of the Pope will achieve a lot for the country. Poverty and corruption are not going to disappear because of this visit. However, it will inspire the many Christians in this country and give the people the chance of a lifetime to see him.
“The expected 6 million are a lot of people, which shows the determination of many to see him. However, with so many people and so many things going on, it would be hard to have good security and ensure the safety of all the people.”
Many are either excited about or indifferent towards the Pope’s visit. In any case, we cannot ignore the significance of his visit. In such a densely populated country such as the Philippines, though, there are bound to be different opinions on his presence.
On Facebook, somebody spoke against false idolatry, annoyed at traffic problems caused by the Feast of the Black Nazarene. The post argued that we were not supposed to worship anyone other than Jesus.
He interpreted a Bible verse from Exodus, concluding that figures such as priests and other religious clergy are sinners too.
He accused the Vatican and the Pope of things not explicitly stated nor defended. Given this elaborate, rabid rant, I suspected the person must be having a bad day. But I also realized how wars are fought because of clashing opinions.
The practice of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is an example of extreme interpretation and meaning.
To each his own, they say, and yet many cannot grasp the simplicity of this concept. Wars are fought and people are mercilessly slaughtered over a disagreement on something as ordinary as a Bible verse.
Everybody has his or her own moral standards. Eighty percent of 100 million people in the Philippines are Catholic—the highest number in the Far East.
In light of the Pope’s arrival, I would like to remind everyone of the underlying factor that ultimately unites us all: the good that shines even on the verge of darkness.
Pope Francis is the embodiment of the themes of his visit: mercy and compassion. He epitomizes the streak of light in everything, and is thus an inspiration and role model to us all.
Despite our clashing ideologies, we are a nation that collectively believes in the betterment of society and the spread of benevolence.
Thus, the papal visit is a mere reminder to us all of the good that craves to be noticed and propagated.