Lack of big venue worries Palma

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013


CEBU CITY -- Without a venue big enough to accommodate 12,000 to 15,000 delegates, Cebu risks losing the chance to host the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in 2016.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma expressed his apprehension that the congress will be transferred to Manila, which has large convention centers.

On his 63rd birthday yesterday, the archbishop said his birthday wish is that the congress will push through in Cebu and that Pope Francis will be here to attend the activities.

“My wish is that the plan for the Eucharistic Congress, which was announced to be held in Cebu, will really be celebrated here. I say that because I have some apprehension. I was thinking we don’t have a big space to accommodate the normal daily participants, that’s like 12,000 people. We couldn’t offer a place to make 12,000 people comfortable,” he lamented.

At present, the Archdiocese of Cebu is considering the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City as a possible venue. The dome, however, sits only up to 8,000 people.

Apprehension

With the existing convention facilities available, Palma said “we may have to squeeze them all in a small place, or put them under the heat of the sun or in the danger of rain, unless we can devise a plan to expand the little spaces we have.”

“And so despite that, I hope that when we meet in April, the committee will still say go ahead with Cebu, whatever you can have. I am a little bit apprehensive that they might say, sorry na lang, you don’t have the space, so we will transfer it to another place in the Philippines and that would be Manila… We will just hope for the best,” he told reporters.

Palma shared his birthday wish with reporters after a mass he celebrated with some bishops, priests, religious leaders and some public officials.

As for the pope’s attendance, Palma said he believes the Holy Father will join the congress wherever it will be held.

Other convention venues in Cebu are the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel’s grand ballroom, which sits 1,500 to 1,900 people, and the Cebu International Convention Center, which has a seating capacity of 1,500 only.

Like what they did when they organized the national thanksgiving mass for the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod, the archdiocese will seek the help of the private sector and local government units in Cebu in organizing the congress.

Not yet finished

Palma said they coordinated with SM Prime Holdings Inc., which is building a convention center at the South Road Properties, but they were told the project will not be finished in time for the congress in 2016.

Palma will leave for the Vatican in April to discuss other options with the organizing committee.

“But when we meet in April and they will say have a big space or else we will transfer, then that’s when we will make the last call (with private sectors) because we want to hear from them first,” he said.

It was in June last year when Pope Benedict XVI announced that Cebu City was chosen to host the next International Eucharistic Congress in 2016, which will be attended by cardinals, priests, religious and lay leaders from all over the world.

Also yesterday, Palma expressed his well wishes for Pope Francis, who was installed as Pope Benedict’s successor yesterday.

Change of pictures

Today, the archdiocese will be replacing Pope Benedict’s photos in archdiocesan offices with a photo of Pope Francis,

In his homily during his birthday mass, the archbishop said he hopes the priests and lay in Cebu would follow the example that the pope set in bringing back the spirit of St. Francis, his spirit of humility, simplicity and love for the poor, as well as “the renewal of the church from within.”

“It is a challenge for all of us because the world as we know it tends to lure us with power, prestige and possession and that hits all of us so I hope all of us priests, religious and lay people imbibe the spirit of the pope, which of course reflects the spirit of Christ,” Palma added.

While he admires the pope’s simplicity and humility, Palma, like archdiocesan media liaison officer Msgr. Achilles Dakay, said he does not believe that popes and cardinals would take public transport or cook their own meals on a daily basis.

He urged the priests to follow the example of Pope Francis, to embrace the mission to reach out to far-flung barangays, especially the least in the communities.

He also asked the Cebuanos to share his gratitude on his birthday for having been given St. Pedro Calungsod, and for other blessings bestowed on Cebu.

“That is my wish, my prayer. That we who have received wonderful gifts from the Lord as an archdiocese may journey with the belief that we are privileged but we are also tasked to share these wonderful blessings,” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 20, 2013.

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