A million people bid pontiff goodbye

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Group hug photo released by the Vatican shows Pope Francis embracing children during his encounter with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas on Sunday. AFP photo

Group hug photo released by the Vatican shows Pope Francis embracing children during his encounter with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas on Sunday. AFP photo

Throngs of Filipinos lined the motorcade route of Pope Francis on Monday from the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila to the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City (Metro Manila) to bid farewell to the pontiff.

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The Holy Father left his official residence at 9:04 a.m. after a meeting with top government officials involved in preparations for his state and apostolic visit.

More than one million people waited early for a final glimpse of Francis, according to Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairperson Francis Tolentino.

Much like the way he enthralled the multitude of waiting faithful when he arrived, Pope Francis electrified those who came to say goodbye.

Cheers and tears mixed with the ecstasy of seeing the Pope before he left for the Vatican.

The 78-year-old pontiff showed no signs of fatigue from a grueling week on the road, smiling and waving to the crowds from an open-air “Popemobile” on the way to the airport.

The pontiff waved and blessed the huge crowds. He did not sit during his almost 30-minute motorcade to Pasay City.

Two lucky children along Sales Road in Pasay City each got a kiss from the Holy Father.

One thousand youth from the Tulay sa Don Bosco Foundation chanted: “Pope Francis, we love you” as the Holy Father entered the Villamor Air Base gate.

Accompanied by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Pope Francis passed through Honor Guards on his way to the plane. The President, 14 Cabinet secretaries, 12 church leaders and Argentina’s ambassador to the Philippines, Roberto Sebastian Bosch Estevez, were part of the send-off party.

The crowd became emotional when Pope Francis gave his final blessings and said farewell at 9:51 a.m.

All eyes were glued on him as he climbed up the plane and gave one final wave to the crowd. Then he bowed and disappeared from view.

The papal plane, a Philippine Airlines Airbus piloted by Captain Eric Isaac, departed at exactly 10:12 a.m.

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