Members of different church organizations troop outside the Apostolic Nunciature along Taft Avenue in Manila on Monday to deliver postcards addressed to Pope Francis. The postcards contain images of problems facing various sectors of Philippine society.(MNS photo)

Members of different church organizations troop outside the Apostolic Nunciature along Taft Avenue in Manila on Monday to deliver postcards addressed to Pope Francis. The postcards contain images of problems facing various sectors of Philippine society. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — An official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Tuesday said devotees need not literally touch Pope Francis when he visits the country later this week.

Fr. Francis Lucas, executive director of the CBCP Catholic Media Network, said there is a very real concern for the people’s safety after Catholic devotees breached security perimeters during the visit of Pope John Paul in Manila in 1995.

The priest said devotees do not need to literally touch the pope.

“You don’t have to literally touch the pope. You don’t have to be an inch near him because once you see the pope, the way he looks at you and the smile that he gives, for me that is sufficient because the blessing goes through the walls, goes through the air and goes to your heart. It travels fast. What is important is to see his face personally,” he said.

Fr. Lucas said the church and the government have tried their best to allow the pope to be as near as possible to the people without sacrificing safety.

An estimated 5 million to 6 million people are expected to attend an outdoor Mass with the Pope in Rizal Park on January 18.

The prelate, however, said he has heard from friends in the Visayas that they will camp out days in advance in Tacloban before the Pope’s arrival there.

“A lot of my friends are telling me even if there are no more hotel rooms, we will just camp out,” he said.

Fr. Lucas said the new pope is rebuilding the church by removing all the pomposity while emphasizing the need for a personal and communal encounter with Christ.

“Faith is communal. Faith starts with the family,” he said.

He said that he also expects the pope to talk about the need to be a church of service.

Asked why the Pope chose to visit the Philippines, he joked: “The Philippines is loved by the Pope for the simple reason that we are so lovable.”

“All other nations are also lovable but he sees it in the sense of faith, the deep religiosity of Filipinos, of the open invitation for the cardinal and bishops conference to him,” he said.

He also said the Pope immediately send aid after Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines in 2013.

“Because we are the victims of the strongest typhoon that caused so much pain and suffering, he wants to feel that so that all Filipinos can also share in his mercy and compassion,” he said. (MNS)