Palma tells faithful to wear slippers; gravel to fill flooded area
Regardless of the weather, the closing Mass of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) will be held at the South Road Properties (SRP) in Cebu City.
“Take courage. Let’s not be afraid of whatever weather disturbance or any other inconveniences that will happen,” Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma told reporters at the IEC Pavilion yesterday afternoon.
The 65-year-old prelate said Cebu City has no other venue that can hold one million people aside from the SRP.
Last Tuesday, heads of different committees considered holding the Statio Orbis or closing Mass in another venue since the 27-hectare portion of the SRP where about a million people are expected to gather for the Eucharistic celebration was flooded due to continuous rains.
Palma said organizers are trying their best to drain the area and fill waterlogged areas with gravel.
“We hope the weather condition will improve. If you’re afraid that your shoes might get dirty, then wear sandals or slippers,” he said.
Despite the SRP’s muddy condition, Palma is hoping that people, especially Cebuanos, will still attend the closing Mass of the IEC on Sunday.
“Even during the visit of Pope Francis in Tacloban City, people were not afraid of the storm (before and during the Mass),” he said.
Fr. Brian Brigoli, chairman of the IEC venue committee, said he was considering the Cebu City Sports Center or the Plaza Independencia as alternate venues for the Statio Orbis.
The two places, however, cannot accommodate one million people.
“But if I were to decide, I still would choose SRP because we already spent much for that. If cost is not an issue, then time is,” Brigoli told Cebu Daily News yesterday.
The open area at the SRP was also the venue of the thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod in 2012.
Despite various challenges brought about by natural calamities, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, the representative of Pope Francis to the 51st IEC, said Filipinos remain hopeful and resilient.
When he will report to the Holy Father after the IEC, he said he will relay the faith of the Filipinos in God.
“Despite natural disasters, one thing that remained here is the faith of the people. You find faith in the Eucharist and the Lord. Everything will be gone but never the faith,” he said in a press conference last Wednesday.
The closing Mass at the SRP is scheduled at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
About 1,500 priests, 200 bishops, seven cardinals and 13,000 delegates from 72 countries are expected to attend the celebration.
Pope Francis will also deliver a message and announce the venue of the next IEC through a video from the Vatican.
Archbishop Palma earlier issued a directive to all priests in the archdiocese to cancel all afternoon and evening Masses.
He said this will allow the local clergy and the lay faithful to attend the closing Mass at the SRP.
Roberto “Bo” Varquez, administrative chief of the South Road Properties, said they plan to place gravel on the 600-square-meter San Pedro Calungsod templete area.
“The gravel will be for the hundreds of bishops from 71 countries, and for the priests and the people who will be working on the mass. It will be hard if they have to move around and it’s too muddy,” Varquez said.
Duros Development Corp., the construction company that built the IEC pavilion free of cost, would provide the gravel around the templete and other strategic areas like the entrance and exit points.
Other private construction companies like Dakay Construction also showed interest in offering free gravel for the SRP Mass.
“Once the lot dries, we will begin putting gravel. Since the rain stopped, expect the lot to be dry by tomorrow,” Varquez said.
Sacrifice for God
He said the area for the 15,000 delegates and 3,000 members of the clergy has been paved and the 2,400-strong choir will be on the bleachers borrowed from the Lapu-Lapu City government.
Acting Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella also offered draining equipment to help remove the water fast.
“The city government will do its best to mitigate the impact of mud and slippery roads,” Labella told reporters.
Labella advised the general public to bring raincoats and wear closed footwear like boots during the Statio Orbis Mass on Sunday, just to be prepared.
“Avoid bringing umbrellas and items that can cover the view of others who have come to attend the Mass. If there’s going to be a million people, let’s try to make the experience meaningful for everyone. This is a sacrifice for God,” Labella said.
Labella also assured that disaster teams are ready for any unexpected serious weather conditions and disaster occurrences.
IEC security chief Joel Garganera said he reminded security teams to be twice as vigilant.
Varquez said 25 street vendors were accredited by Cebu City Hall to set up concessionaire stalls on the borders of the lot.
But the vendors were warned not to call out to customers and not to walk around the Mass area.
“We lifted the zero-vendor policy because the Cebu Archdiocese requested it. We also learned from the incident in Plaza (Independencia), where we stopped the vendors from selling during the
Mass and some people didn’t have water and many fainted,” Varquez said.
The street vendors are required to present their health cards and other sanitation requirements to prevent incidents of food poisoning.
City Health personnel will also monitor the vendors.
Senior Supt. Rey Lyndon Lawas, head of the Police Regional Office’s Security Task Group Cebu, said 4,000 police personnel will be deployed around and inside the 27-hectare SRP lot to secure the million faithful expected to attend the closing Mass.
The police will be augmented by 500 troops from the military’s Central Command.
About 1,100 police cadets will also serve as crowd control personnel.
Lawas said they can adjust to any contingency considered by the IEC organizers.