MANILA, Philippines – A storm threatened rain and the night was made colder by a strong wind, but inclement weather did not stop early birds from camping out last night in Rizal Park to wait for the mass to be celebrated this afternoon by Pope Francis.
Up to six million people are expected to attend the mass that will cap Pope Francis’ historic visit in the Philippines.
Last Friday during their one-on-one meeting at Malacañang, President Aquino told Pope Francis that the crowd at today’s mass is expected to be bigger than the record five million that turned out for Pope John Paul II’s mass in the same venue during the World Youth Day celebration on Jan. 15, 1995.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday that Aquino showed the pope photographs of the World Youth Day mass.
During the 1995 gathering, the crowd packed streets several kilometers away from the park. Many were perched atop cars and climbed trees for a view of John Paul II. So dense was the crowd that the pope abandoned plans to travel from his residence by car and was flown instead by helicopter.
With all the joy and cheers of the Filipino crowd every time Pope Francis passes by, the cardinals who elected him in 2013 observed that he has turned out to be a “rock star” pope.
But will there be a unique entrance for Pope Francis during his concluding mass this afternoon at Quirino Grandstand?
During the World Youth Day in 1995, organizers of the papal mass thought of preparing a “Michael Jackson-like entrance” for Pope John Paul II when he appeared before the crowd.
Jimmy Policarpio, chief operating officer during the 1995 World Youth Day, said organizers considered the health of Pope John Paul II, who at that time was 74 years old and still recovering from an accident.
“Pope John Paul II had an accident. He had a total hip replacement a year before the event, so what we did was to make sure that all his movements would require less physical effort for him,” Policarpio recounted.
To bring Pope John Paul II up the stage, carpenters cut a rectangular hole on the floor of the Quirino Grandstand, just enough for the Holy Father to pass through. A seesaw elevator was used to raise the pope. The stage floor opened up and out came Pope John Paul II.
“I got this idea when I watched the Michael Jackson concert in Russia,” Policarpio said.
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Sources: Philstar – By Aurea Calica and Evelyn Macairan | All Things Michael