Millions Flock to Manila as the Rock Star Pope Thrills a Nation – Businessweek

Pope Francis will hold back-to-back events
in Manila on Sunday, showcasing his crowd-drawing power amid a
forecast for storm winds and rains on his final day touring
Asia’s most-Catholic nation.

The 78-year-old pontiff will meet religious leaders and
youth in the morning at the University of Santo Tomas, before
holding a mass at Rizal Park, where Pope John Paul II drew as
many as 5 million people 20 years ago. The turnout today may
reach 6 million, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said on Jan. 14.

The Argentine pope is attracting millions across the
Philippines since arriving on Jan. 15 after three days in Sri
Lanka. Yesterday, he drew about 1 million in Tacloban and Palo
in Leyte province, where he celebrated a mass and shared lunch
with survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan before cutting his visit
short by four hours because of an approaching storm.

Thousands queued since Saturday near the entrance for
today’s mass, while hundreds more held a vigil near the 400-year-old university. Many camped along the road from the Vatican
Embassy in Manila, where the pope is staying, to catch a glimpse
of him. In the Philippines, where 80 percent of the 100-million
population are Catholic, he’s known as Lolo Kiko, or grandfather
plus his localized name.

“I really want to be close to him, so I volunteered to be
a human barricade,” said Paolo Arroyo, a 20-year-old student
who has been at the university since 2 a.m. Sunday to be part of
the group that will help protect the pontiff and manage the
crowd. “He is the rock star of the church”

Storm Warning

Metro Manila and nearby provinces as well as Leyte were
placed on the lowest storm-alert level by the weather bureau in
its 11 p.m. bulletin, with a warning of occasional rain and
gusty winds. Typhoon Mekkhala, the first tropical storm this
year weakened after making landfall in Samar on Saturday.

After his election in March 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a
former archbishop of Buenos Aires, called on church leaders to
focus preaching on poverty and suffering, and advocated freer
discussions on homosexuality, abortion and divorce — while
still upholding the doctrine on those issues.

The pontiff has washed the feet of lepers and prison
inmates, and regularly plunges into crowds to shake hands with
followers, making him a security challenge and also a pop icon.
Rolling Stone magazine put him on the cover of its February 2014
issue. He played an important role in brokering the accord
between the U.S. and Cuba to normalize ties.

Aldo Dennis Joson, 36, flew from Singapore to be part of
the 1,000-people chorus at the mass today.

“It’s not just singing for him, it’s singing in
celebration of the hope and the promise that he brings,” said
Joson, who attended Pope John Paul’s mass in February 1995.
“John Paul’s effect was very calming but Pope Francis provokes
your thinking and calls you to action.”

To contact the reporters on this story:
Clarissa Batino in Manila at
cbatino@bloomberg.net;
Ditas Lopez in Manila at
dlopez55@bloomberg.net;
Cecilia Yap in Manila at
cyap19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Stanley James at
sjames8@bloomberg.net
Jake Lloyd-Smith, Jim McDonald

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