On 17 January 1981, via Proclamation No. 2045, President Ferdinand Marcos officially lifted martial law. This was widely seen as an effort to create a positive image for his administration in time for the papal visit in the following month, and to placate growing opposition within the Catholic church.

Four days before the Pope’s arrival, the People’s Assembly for the Pope’s Arrival (Papa), an alliance of 32 anti-Marcos groups, gathered at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to decry American imperialism and the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos. In this clip we see seminarians at the frontlines carrying a large wooden cross, which police forces pushed back and eventually destroyed in their attempts to halt the procession.

In his first homily during his six-day stay, the Pope, without mentioning Marcos’ name, condemned the use of violence to maintain peace and order. The New York Times reports: “‘Even in exceptional situations that may at times arise, one can never justify any violation of the fundamental dignity of the human person or of the basic rights that safeguard this dignity,’ the Pope declared as Mr. Marcos sat stolidly on one of the thronelike gilt chairs on the stage. ‘Legitimate concern for the security of a nation, as demanded by the common good, could lead to the temptation of subjugating to the state the human being and his or her dignity and rights.’”

However, in a separate discussion with religious orders at the Manila Cathedral, Pope John Paul II also cautioned against social involvement: “You are priests and religious. You are not social or political leaders or officials of a temporal power. Let us not be under the illusion that we are serving the gospel if we dilute our charisma through an exaggerated interest in the wide field of temporal problems.”