CEBU CITY—The Vatican has assured that everything has been done by Philippine authorities to ensure the security of pilgrims attending the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) which will open here today with a High Mass at Plaza Independencia to be led by a legate from Pope Francis himself, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Burma, and by other Vatican officials.
Radio Vaticana quoted Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo, secretary-general of the congress, saying that security had been tightened and that the Philippine police and military had been on “heightened alert.”
“We have done everything to make the congress as secure as possible,” said Villarojo.
He said security had been tightened since the terrorist attacks in Indonesia recently, and if it was any indication that pilgrims had been reassured, there had been no cancellations.
Msgr. Joseph Tan, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said that everything was ready.
Some 13,000 have registered for the IEC, he said.
Aside from the papal legate, attending the congress are three papal nuncios, 20 cardinals, 30 archbishops, and 100 bishops.
The congress is expected to gather at least 15,000 delegates.
Aside from Cardinal Bo, the Mass today will be presided by Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Council on International Eucharistic Congresses that is based in the Holy See.
Concelebrating with Cardinal Bo are Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales and Ricardo Vidal, and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
The congress will be held starting tomorrow at the IEC Village that has been built at the Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and San Carlos seminaries in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City.
Attending the congress is Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace also based in the Holy See.
Other high church officials attending are Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York, Oswald Garcia of India, Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, Peter Erdo of Hungary, and John Onaiyekan of Nigeria.
Also attending is Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, which hosted the last IEC in 2012.
The congress will close on Jan. 31 with another pontifical Mass to be led again by Cardinal Bo.