Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle described the four-hour stay of Pope Francis in Leyte was “short but sweet”.
The trip of the Holy Father in Eastern Visayas was cut short due to typhoon “Amang” on Saturday.
“Certainly Typhoon ‘Amang’ did not take away the sweetness, mercy and compassion. It was a short but sweet encounter with the victims of Tacloban and Bohol,” the Cardinal said during the press briefing at the Diamond Hotel in Manila Saturday evening.
He added, “It was a full day, even we were in Tacloban for a few hours. We should have left according to the original plan 5 p.m. to return to Manila, but instead went back to Manila by 1 p.m. to avoid the onslaught of the typhoon.”
But, Tagle noted that the Pontiff was able to cover all the events, including the lunch with the survivors of the Bohol earthquake and super typhoon “Yolanda”.
“We want to assure you that the Holy Father tried his best to meet all the expectations in terms of event definitely because of the forecast and the experience of the day, we have to catch short of the trip,” he said.
The Cardinal added, “Again the testimony, the power of Gospel, of solidarity, mercy and compassion, you see how God’s love the brotherhood, the sisterhood fraternity that could generate stronger than any typhoon. People can withstand strong winds and getting wet for love, and we witnessed that.”
Tagle also shared the reaction of the Holy Father during his encounter with the 30 persons who lost their loved ones during the earthquake and strong typhoon, says it was very moving.
“It was an intimate encounter. Of course he (Pope Francis) did not have time to have some lunch… I asked each one just to say a few words especially about the loss they have experienced. I never forget the face of the Holy Father… the Holy Father shaking his head and he was saying ‘oh oh oh’ he was suffering… and when I asked him do you want to say a few words before we go, the Pope replied, ‘What can we say, what can we say?’ and the silence of someone before this mystery of suffering… I though we would repeat his central message, but before this 30 persons he himself was reduced to silence,” the head of the Archdiocese of Manila said.
At the same time, Tagle said the Pope has apologized to the survivors for cutting short the lunch, adding that the Pontiff had chicken soup and salad.
He added that one of the survivors approached him and asked him to pray for their loved ones that perished during the typhoon, the Pope replied, “When I heard about the typhoon two years ago, I offered mass by the way for all of you. My mass tomorrow (Sunday, January 18) in Manila, the intention is for your departed.”
The Catholic prelate said the Pope asked them to pray for him, and they answered, “Yes.”
Tagle added that he asked the Pope when they are on the plane, about his thoughts and experience in Tacloban.
“When we already boarded the plane, I asked him, so how is it Your Holiness? Are you tired? Are you afraid because it’s your first typhoon, he told me, ‘this visit is really for me, this is for me, I am learning, this visit is for me’,” he said.
For his part, Pasig Bishop Mylo Vergara said although the Tacloban trip was cut short, the time spent there by the Pope was worth it.
“Sa akin, pinapanood ko yung nangyari doon sa Tacloban, sa tingin ko wala sa haba ng oras, hindi quantity time kundi quality time. Kung mapapansin mo ang ating Santo Papa sinuyod pa rin niya at ginampanan ang schedule. Pumunta sya bagaman pinaiksi yung pagbisita sa bawat event, tinupad pa rin niya ang schedule kaya ibig sabihin gustong gusto niya na talagang makasalamuha ang mga nasalanta ng bagyong ‘Yolanda’ at lahat ng mga mananampalataya doon sa Tacloban at sa Palo sa Leyte. Alam natin na ang ninanais niya ay maiparamdam yung pag-ibig ng Panginoong Hesus Kristo sa kanyang pagbisita,” he said in an interview over Radio Veritas.
On the other hand, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican Spokesman, said that the Pope went straight to the Papal Nunciature in Manila after arriving from Tacloban, to rest to prepare for the Mass at the Luneta on Sunday. PNA