Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in January will be an opportunity to lead the Church in the country down “new roads in the faith and in the mission,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila. “Pope Francis’ pastoral visit, centered on mercy and compassion, will undoubtedly offer great opportunities to experience grace, to hear a call, to question our comfortable surroundings, to value the poor, renew society, care for creation and live honorably,” the cardinal said in a letter to Catholics of the Philippines. The Philippines will host Pope Francis early next year, January 15-19. The country hosted visits by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and St. John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.   In his letter to the Filipino faithful, the cardinal recalled Paul VI’s visit to the Philippines. Cardinal Tagle was 13 years old at the time of the visit. At one point, seeking to see the Pope, he was surrounded by thronging crowds of faithful. “I stretched my neck and focused my eyes in order to see him as the car in which he was riding passed in front of us. The Pope’s serene gaze and attitude amazed me. That image never left my mind,” Cardinal Tagle reflected. “Eighteen years later in 1985, I registered at the Catholic University of America to study theology,” he said.   Because of his interest in the Second Vatican Council, he wrote about Paul VI’s plans for the council when the future Pope was still a cardinal. “I never imagined in 1970 that one day I would ‘travel’ inside the mind, heart and soul of this great Pope, who led the renewal of the Church in the modern world!”   Cardinal Tagle said his studies of Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council led him later on to “serve and collaborate with Popes St. John Paul II, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.” “The Pope’s visit in 1970 mysteriously opened for me a door into the mystery and mission of the Church,” he said.   “At the end of the papal visit,” Cardinal Tagle concluded, “we will surely share other stories of how Pope Francis’ trip led us down new roads in the faith and in the mission.”