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God’s watching the Philippines

Faithful display: An elevated view shows a large crowd where Pope Francis celebrated Mass at Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, on January 18. Photo: CNS

Faithful display: An elevated view shows a large crowd where Pope Francis celebrated Mass at Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, on January 18. Photo: CNS

By Emilie Ng

MELANIE Canta couldn’t explain the tears that “just flowed” when she caught a glimpse of Pope Francis waving to millions at the last Mass he celebrated during his recent visit to the Philippines.

The Manila-born woman returned to her country for the summer holidays, thrilled that it coincided with the Holy Father’s Philippines visit.

Standing with almost seven million other Catholics “for hours just to see our Pope Francis”, Ms Canta said seeing the Holy Father had left her and many Filipinos “in awe”.

“The feeling was unexplainable,” Ms Canta said.

“I only saw his back but still I had goose bumps, and thought to myself, ‘He can be one of our saints one day and I saw him with my own two eyes’.”

Ms Canta thanked Pope Francis for “gracing” her home country with his presence and prayed that he could visit Australia.

Caboolture parishioner Susie Blinoff couldn’t see Pope Francis in person, but said his visit to her home country was a sign “the Lord is watching us”.

“We love the Pope,” she said.

“Filipinos follow the Pope because it gives us encouragement to see the Lord work through him.

“Even though life is hard for Filipinos, we know the Lord is watching us.”

Hundreds of homeless youth and adults, and survivors of Typhoon Haiyan which devastated Tacloban City in the Philippines’ south, hoped to meet Pope Francis during his visit.

The meeting with survivors was the highlight of the Pope’s trip, according to Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi.

In his homily at the Mass with the typhoon survivors, Pope Francis told survivors he had wanted to be with them all when the typhoon first hit.

“When I saw from Rome the catastrophe, I felt that I had to be here and on those very days I decided to come here,” the Pope said.

“I am here to be with you, a little bit late, I have to say, but I am here.”

Pope Francis also surprised hundreds of homeless children when he made a surprise visit to their Jesuit-run shelter.

Daisy Hill parish priest and former chaplain to the Filipino community Fr Marce Singson said Pope Francis was “a pope who knows how to take a risk in order to comfort and console God’s people”.

“He rode in an open-air popemobile and not a bullet-proof one, and he took courage to fly to Tacloban City in the midst of a typhoon,” Fr Singson said.

“Filipinos cried tears of joy and tears of faith” to see a Pope cry with them in their suffering.

“The Pope’s four-day presence in the Philippines has truly strengthened and inspired the faith of the Filipinos regardless of religion.”

Brisbane Filipino chaplaincy leader Amante Alvaran Pope Francis’ visit was “a blessing” to the country’s estimated 76 million Catholics.

Mr Alvaran said he remembered Pope John Paul II’s visit to Manila for World Youth Day in 1995, which attracted more than five million to the final Papal Mass.

Pope Francis’ Mass at Manila Park broke that record, drawing an estimated seven million people to public Catholic devotion.

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