Lessons from Pope John Paul II’s visit | Inquirer Opinion

Lessons from Pope John Paul II’s visit

/ 02:18 AM January 09, 2015

As a member of the diplomatic corps, being the Unicef representative in Seoul, Korea, my wife and I met Pope John Paul II upon his arrival in that country in May 1984. We also participated in the Mass where over one million Koreans attended.

The members of the diplomatic corps were given seats in front of the stage. But the million attendees were given a million mats—one per person, to enable them to kneel and sit down. The Mass was held at a large cemented field called Yoido Plaza.


Each participant was given a one-square-meter mat, a white hat bearing the colors of the district where his parish belonged, bottles of water, Mass booklet and a rosary blessed by the Pope. They registered months in advance, so that everything was planned.

These mats allowed organizers to predict exactly how many square meters would be used by the audience. Buses had numbers and assigned places where they lined to drop off parishioners and pick up the same people in the same orderly manner they had been dropped off.


The fee for this was high but affordable, and this advance planning allowed for a smooth flow of the event activities. And, to my biggest surprise, there was not a piece of garbage left at the Mass grounds after everyone had left.

What was most critical was the provision of comfort rooms for the attendees. Positioned strategically, the toilets were pleasant-looking. They curtained an area at the back of these toilets to hide a total of 10,000 urinals made from large plastic 10-gallon drums with a neck large enough to catch the urine of men relieving themselves. These were constantly replaced when full.

The Philippines has its own culture of addressing large events like this. But I thought I would share the provision by Korea of toilets and the better allocation of space for each participant to make the visit of

Pope Francis more comfortable, clean and memorable.

—RALPH DIAZ, former Unicef representative in Korea,

[email protected]

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TAGS: Korea, Papal visit, Pope John Paul II, Seoul, Unicef
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