Pope Francis arrives in Philippines for record-breaking visit – and is met by an unprecedented range of papal memorabilia

Dolls of Pope Francis are selling for 1,000 pesos in Manila shops

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The Independent Online

Pope Francis has arrived in the Philippines, commencing a four-day visit where he is expected to be met with a world record-breaking turnout for a papal event.

The first visit by a Pope for 20 years in the largely Catholic country has been anticipated with an almost feverish intensity – culminating in the release of a slightly bizarre range of official, limited edition Pope Francis dolls.

Arriving to windy conditions in Manila – to the extent that his papal skullcap flew off completely – Francis was met with his own visage in the form of welcome posters, shirts, and other memorabilia.

A large group on the tarmac was arranged to sing along to a pop song written specially for the Pope’s visit, during which he will meet with survivors of 2013’s devastating Typhoon Haiyan.

The dolls have proved particularly popular among the Philippines’ estimated 80 million Catholics. Standing at 12 inches tall and costing around 1,000 pesos (£15), they come with their own box and a certificate of authenticity.

pope-francis-ph.jpg“We're waiting for Pope Francis so we can be blessed,” said Precy Asistio, a 60-year-old devotee who was waiting near the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Manila where Francis will be staying.

“Once we see him, we'll go home – as long as he waves at us”.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, said he hoped the visit would be uplifting for a country still recovering from recent deadly disasters.

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Pope Francis, new hat acquired, waves next to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (R) during his arrival at the airport in Manila (EPA)

“It's like a big, big, big, big national fiesta,” a beaming Tagle told The Associated Press in an interview on the eve of the pope's arrival. The visit, he said, “comes at that point when people would really be helped by a moral and spiritual boost coming from someone who really cares.”

Officials say around 50,000 police and troops have been deployed to deal with the logistical challenge of securing a papal visit.

Francis is to deliver an outdoor mass on Sunday at a park in Manila that is expected to draw around six million people. If the turnout is as predicted, it will set a record for the best-attended papal event in history.

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