By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 July, 2014
Though the official programme for the visit to the two countries has yet to be announced, the dates were confirmed.
The Pontiff will begin his South East Asian trip in Sri Lanka where he will stay from 12-15 January.
He will then continue to the Philippines and will be there from 15-19 January.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said the itinerary of the Pope’s visit to the Philippines would be announced later in the year.
The theme of the Pope’s visit, the Cardinal said, would be “mercy and compassion.”
On his return flight from his visit to the Holy Land in May, the Pope told reporters that he wished to visit the Philippines next year as a gesture of solidarity with the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Visayas last November.
The Pope’s visit will also mark the 20th anniversary of the 1995 World Youth Day which was held in the Philippines.
The Philippines Bishops’ Conference has urged the faithful to start preparing for the papal visit by becoming “a people rich in mercy.”
“Let us make mercy our national identity. Trust in God’s mercy is part and parcel of our traditional Filipino Christian culture. Let us make the practice of mercy our gift to the pope when he comes to visit us,” Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said.
“He comes to confirm us in our faith as we face the challenges of witnessing the joy of the Gospel in the midst of our trials. This is an eloquent way of showing mercy and compassion,” the Archbishop added.
The bishops have encouraged Filipinos to make an act of mercy every day, such as giving food to the hungry, helping build homes for the typhoon victims, visiting the prisoners or the charity ward of hospitals, drug rehabilitation centres, homes for the elderly and orphanages.