Pope Francis in the Philippines

Since the arrival of Pope Francis in the Philippines, my abuela (lola) has been glued to the television. While watching she kept on repeating if abuelo was alive, they (or maybe we) will be there with the crowd waiting to catch a glimpse of the Santo Papa. She again told the story of how grandfather held her hand and got her back so that she could see Pope John Paul II up close.

Photo by Gil Nartea/ Malacañang Photo Bureau)
Photo by Gil Nartea/ Malacañang Photo Bureau)

But at the age of 80, she preferred to stay at home and never miss any update regarding the visit of Pope Francis in the Philippines. In those five days, she never did miss any. Same with anyone who witnessed the Pope’s visit, she also cried, laughed and her heart was filled with wisdom and hope.

Indeed, lucky are those in the Philippines because it’s a long weekend. They were able to use their holiday very well. Some went to the Villamor Air Base to welcome the Pope while some went to the Manila Cathedral and to the Mall of Asia or just along the streets where the Pope will surely pass by.

Working at home has a downside because I was not affected with the holiday and was actually working. But thanks to the wonderful thing called technology, I was able to follow what was happening.

Honesty, Integrity, and Concern

Upon all of you, and upon all the men, women and children of this beloved nation, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Photo by Benhur Arcayan / Malacañang Photo Bureau
Photo by Benhur Arcayan / Malacañang Photo Bureau

In Pope Francis’ speech at Malacañang, he mentioned that countless people were ready to help those affected by Typhoon Yolanda. He pointed out that this example of solidarity in the work of rebuilding teaches us an important lesson. People are challenged to work together and build solid foundations where there is respect for human values. It is also necessary for political leaders to have honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good as this will help preserve both human and natural resources given by God.

I ask Mary, Mother of the Church, to obtain for all of you an outpouring of zeal, so that you may spend yourselves in selfless service to our brothers and sisters. In this way, may the reconciling love of Christ penetrate ever more fully into the fabric of Filipino society and, through you, to the farthest reaches of the world.

Filipinos gather outside the Manila Cathedral after a mass lead by Pope Francis on January 16, 2015. Photo by Ritchie Tongo/EPA
Filipinos gather outside the Manila Cathedral after a mass lead by Pope Francis on January 16, 2015. Photo by Ritchie Tongo/EPA

In Pope Francis’ homily at the Manila Cathedral, again the Pope calls Christians to live with honesty, integrity and concern for the common good. Remove all forms of materialism so that we can see everything clearly and respond accordingly. The Pope also challenged the young priests, religious and seminarians to share the joy and love for Christ to everyone especially to the youth who are confused and broken.

To dream how will your daughter or son be, it is not possible to have a family without such dreams. When you lose this capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love, and this energy to love is lost.

AT THE MOA. At the end of the Encounter With Families, Pope Francis speaks with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. Rappler screengrab
AT THE MOA. At the end of the Encounter With Families, Pope Francis speaks with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. Rappler screengrab

In Pope Francis’ speech while meeting with families at Mall of Asia Arena, he mentioned the pressures on family life we are experiencing today. It may be due natural disasters, economic situation leading to migration or employment, and financial problems where families are separated from each other. However, there are also those who have the resources but are caught up in materialism and unhealthy lifestyle that can destruct a family.

To achieve a good and strong family, prayer is a powerful gift that we have to use and is often in the family that we first learn how to pray. It takes us closer to God and the Church which in turn teaches us to love, forgive, and to be open. As the saying goes, “The family that prays together stays together.”

When I saw from Rome that catastrophe I had to be here. And on those very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you – a little bit late, but I’m here. 

In Pope Francis’ homily in Tacloban, he asked the people if he could speak in Spanish. Understanding a little bit of Spanish (but good thing Pope’s translator, Msgr Mark Gerard Miles was there), I was touched when the Pope said, “Cuando yo vi desde Roma esta catástrofe, sentí que tenía que estar aquí. Esos días decidí hacer el viaje aquí. Quise venir para estar con ustedes, un poco tarde me dirán, es verdad, pero estoy.” (When I saw from Rome that catastrophe I had to be here. And on those very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you – a little bit late, but I’m here.)

As he said in his speech in Malacañang, he is here to express his closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda. The Pope used his own language which means that what he has to say is true to his heart and wants to make it more personal. It lifted the hearts and hopes of the citizens of Tacloban knowing that Jesus is Lord and He never lets anyone down.

Lastly, in Pope Francis’ homily at Luneta he said, “At the end of my visit to the Philippines, I commend you to him, to Jesus who came among us as a child. May he enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another, beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace. May the Santo Niño continue to bless the Philippines and may he sustain the Christians of this great nation in their vocation to be witnesses and missionaries of the joy of the Gospel, in Asia and in the whole world.

Please don’t forget to pray for me! God bless you!”

With all the examples and teachings the Pope shared, it all says one thing – love. As simple as it sounds, it seems difficult for an individual especially when part of a group to do it. But love is a mysterious and powerful emotion.

Photo by the Malacañang Photo Bureau
Photo by the Malacañang Photo Bureau

With love, a person learns to be honest, to have a strong moral principle, and to have concern towards common good. Honesty, integrity, and concern are the three things the Pope keeps on repeating throughout his speech and homily. Hearing and learning all these, we are indeed blessed by the Pope. And as we waved goodbye to Pope Francis early this morning, may we never forget what he taught us and apply all these in the days ahead.

Gracias, Santo Papa! Maraming salamat, Pope Francis!

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