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Cardinal urges Filipinos to reflect on Pope’s message

Pope waves to the crowd during his recent trip to the Philippines (CNS)

Now that Pope Francis has returned to Rome, Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said Filipinos need to take time to reflect on his words, “the spiritual message and also the missionary message”.

“The centrality of loving the poor. The centrality of appreciating children who are helpless. Every child should be cherished, should be welcomed. The streets are not for children. These are not only thoughts, but if we ponder them, they will prod us into action,” he said.

He reiterated the Pope’s entreaty to young people that they should “think well, feel (deeply) and do well”. “That’s, I think, the future of this visit. Let us think about it. Let us feel what we have thought about and then do — according to the impulse of the ideas and profound spiritual and pastoral challenges,” said the cardinal.

Pope Francis left the Philippines on January 19 amid the same kind of energy and excitement from the masses that greeted him when he arrived in Manila five days earlier.

Crowds swelled the streets of the pontiff’s route hoping for one last glimpse, and at Villamor Air Base he was greeted with singing and dancing from various youth and children’s groups. The loud clatter of brass-knobbed cymbals pulsed as the dancers continued their routine long after the pope boarded and the plane taxied.

As the dancers finished their routines, they started to wipe away tears, and messages of thanks to the Pope began popping up all over media.

Speaking to Pope Francis before he left, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said, “Gracias, Senor! Gracias Santo Padre! Gracias! Thank you! Salamat!”

“You thanked the Lord for not leaving us orphans amid desperation, loss, misery and pain. And at that moment we were one with you in your thanksgiving to God,” said Archbishop Villegas in a statement. “But we were also lifting up our own gratitude to God for sending you to us.”

The Pope said that, as soon as he saw the damage from Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, he wanted to visit the Philippines to empathise with survivors. The typhoon in the central Philippines left 7,300 dead or missing in November 2013.

In Manila, he also spent time with orphaned street children, holding them close. He spent time visiting the elderly, people with disabilities, families, young people, clergy and religious and government officials.

After the Pope’s flight, dubbed “Shepherd One” by local news outlets, took off, Church officials spoke with reporters.

Bishop Mylo Vergara of Pasig, head of the media committee for Pope Francis’ visit, called the Pontiff “a pope of surprises” especially noting “it was a first” that the Pope wore a yellow plastic raincoat over his vestments during two days of heavy rains.

“That was a very powerful image because, if you saw it in social media, even in the newspapers, you saw him as one with us,” said the bishop. “And that was his intention, even before coming here. He wanted to be one with us in mercy and compassion.”

The Pope’s trip to the Philippines reverberated with messages that espouse mercy and compassion. He told parents to remember to dream for their children and each other; the young to learn how to cry for the poor and show love by receiving from the poor, not just by giving; and government officials to reject corruption in every form. For survivors of the super typhoon, he said Jesus knows their suffering and is always there for them.