Pope Francis is back in Rome after a historic pastoral and state visit to the Philippines where he was greeted by millions of cheering people who braved rain and steaming heat and waited several hours just to get a glimpse of him.
While travelling to the Philippines from Sri Lanka, the Pontiff said he wants to send a message to the poor who face “social, spiritual and existential” injustices. In a country composed of 80 million Catholics but with a quarter of the population living below the poverty line, the call for the church to embrace the poor has struck a deep chord.
Speaking during his flight from the Philippines onboard the Italy-bound Philippine Airlines chartered plane, Pope Francis shared that what he like best during visit was the “gestures” by which Filipinos expressed their joy and faith. He said the Filipinos reacted from deep inside their heart, encompassing feelings from faith, love, the family, delusion, and the future. He acknowledged the actions of the fathers who brought their children and the mothers with sick kids who proudly showed them to him to be blessed. The Pontiff also noted the capacity of Filipinos to celebrate and the ability to show genuine joy amidst the hardship of life.
Pope Francis also revealed that he was shaken in Tacloban which he also visited to console the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. Known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, the storm was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded that killed or left missing more than 7,000 people and badly destroyed villages in this central Philippine province in 2013. The Pope said the mass in Tacloban was emotionally moving for him when he saw the people standing still and praying. He added that he felt as though he was annihilated (“wiped out”) and almost couldn’t speak.
Pope Francis also remembered Kristel Padasas, the young woman who died in a freak accident after attending the Holy Mass.
The Pope also discussed other issues such as the Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks and birth control, among others while on the plane. The Jesuit-run America Magazine ran a full transcript of Pope’s plane press conference.
Meanwhile, President Aquino also spoke to Pope Francis on the determination of his government to eradicate poverty, notwithstanding that his office e has been at loggerheads with the local Roman Catholic Church over a 2012 reproductive law that promotes artificial birth control.
Pope Francis is the fourth pontiff to visit the Philippines. The government declared a three-day public holiday in Metro Manila to clear the traffic and to enhance security measures.