“I am going to Manila for the poor.” Those were the words of Pope Francis while he was on his way to the Philippines on January 16, 2015. And sure enough, the Pope kept his promise. With our very own eyes, we saw him visit a rehabilitation home for street children, celebrate mass despite heavy rainfall, and speak to over 7 million Filipinos who were eager to meet and receive his blessings.
The pope’s trip to our country is indeed something that will remain in the hearts of Filipinos for a very long time. And as we celebrate the fourth-year anniversary of his visit, My Pope takes a look back at his most heartwarming gestures during his stay. Here are our top-three picks:
When he made a surprise visit to a children’s home in Manila
Right after celebrating his first mass at the Manila Cathedral, the Pope went out of his way to make a surprise visit to the street children of the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation (TNK). The Santo Papa initially intended to just make a short two-minute visit, but he enjoyed the company of the children so much that he had to extend his stay to almost 20 minutes!
Father Matthieu Dauchez, the Executive Director of the Foundation, says the children first started inviting the Pope to visit the foundation in 2014—and just never stopped. They sent him thousands of letters through their “messenger,” Cardinal Tagle. “[At the beginning,] I wondered if the Pope would realize the terrible stories behind the beautiful smiles…” Father Dauchez shares, “but the Pope approached me after [playing with the children] and told me, ‘I want the work of the foundation to go on, because these children are the flesh of Christ.’”
When he celebrated mass in the midst of a raging storm
On the day of the Pope’s visit to Tacloban, the Yolanda-stricken province was once again hit by another typhoon. Despite authorities asking him to postpone his visit, Pope Francis still decided to stick with his program and celebrated mass amidst non-stop rainfall.
In an improvised speech, the pope addressed thousands of Taclobanons and said, “When I saw this calamity from Rome, I was moved to visit you. On that day, I decided to come and stand united with you all. Although it took some time before I arrived, right now, in this very moment, I stand before you all. I am here to declare that Jesus is Lord, and He will not let us down. You may say to me: Father, the Lord let me down because I lost everything, my house, my family, my livelihood, and I am sick. This is the truth, and I respect your sentiments. But Jesus died for us on the cross, and He never failed us since.”
When he answered an abuse victim’s question with compassion and honesty
During his visit at the University of Santo Tomas on January 18, 2015, the pope and a crowd of over 30,000 youth listened to two moving stories of former street children who suffered from domestic abuse. One child asked, “Why does God allow such things to happen to children, even if it isn’t their fault?” To this Pope Francis responded, “She is the only one who has put a question of which there is no answer. There is no answer to this. It is only when we learn how to cry for the things that you said are we able to begin to answer this question.” He continued, “Our world is incapable of crying. There are certain realities of life we can only see through eyes that have been cleansed by tears. Now, many will ask: Do I only gain the ability to weep whenever I see a hungry child, a child whose life is ruined by drugs, or a child that is orphaned, abused and enslaved? When the heart is capable of weeping, only then can we begin to understand anything.”
Do you have your own moving stories from Lolo Kiko’s visit? Do share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!