MANILA, Philippines (AP) — In Asia's bastion of Roman Catholic faith, images of Pope Francis are getting the pop star treatment.
A church-run radio station in the Philippines is distributing life-size cardboard cutouts of the pope to generate "papal fever" among selfie-loving Filipinos before the pope's visit in January.
At the SM Mall of Asia, students, families and other shoppers on Wednesday snapped pictures of themselves beside the papal standee.
"When I saw the picture ... he seemed alive, it's very nice," said Rosalima Magala, who had her picture taken beside the papal standee at the Mall of Asia. A 36-year-old government employee from central Cebu City, Magala was named after St. Rose of Lima and said she hopes to see Pope Francis in person during his visit.
Another mall visitor, Arnel Ocay, a college teacher from northern Pangasinan province, said the pope's trip is a big event for Catholics and he will be among those who will participate.
Rev. Anton Pascual, president of Radio Veritas, said via text that the standees were part of an effort to spread the message of mercy and compassion.
The first cardboard cutouts were sent to churches, schools and malls in the capital, and more will be printed to distribute around the country.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Philippines on Jan. 15-19 and is expected to meet survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed 6,300 people and left 1,061 missing last year.