LOUD cheers, tears of joy and the pealing of bells greeted Pope Francis and his entourage as soon as his plane touched down on Runway 06 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 5:36 p.m. on Thursday.
Emotions ran high when Shepherd One, the name given to the Sri Lankan plane that carried the pontiff, became visible from afar. It was the only aircraft allowed to fly and land at the NAIA 30 minutes prior to the pope’s arrival.
The Sri Lanka A340 aircraft settled on the tarmac of Villamor Airbase, where President Benigno Aquino 3rd and officials of the Cabinet and the Catholic Church were waiting to officially welcome the Pope and other Vatican officials, marking day one of the Catholic leader’s five-day State and Pastoral Visit.
“Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, brings to our nation the glad tidings of faith, hope and love. Mercy and compassion are essential elements of our caring and sharing ethos. These are the values that underpin our long term development program for achieving inclusive growth – a lofty goal that President Aquino seeks to attain during his watch,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement shortly before the prelate’s arrival.
“In solidarity with the Filipino people, we extend to His Holiness Pope Francis our warmest welcome. Mabuhay!” the Palace official added. JOEL SY EGCO