A storm did not stop Pope Francis from going to Tacloban but he was forced to return to Manila earlier than scheduled because of the worsening weather.
He apologized to the people of Palo, Leyte for cutting short his visit.
The Pope was supposed to stay in Leyte until 5 p.m. on Saturday, but the pilots insisted that the papal plane had to leave by 1 p.m. as tropical storm Amang intensified.
Some advisers had earlier urged the Holy Father to cancel his trip because of inclement weather. But Francis insisted on pushing through with the visits to Tacloban and Palo, because these are said to be the top priorities of the Pope and the primary reason why he wanted to visit the Philippines.
Addressing the faithful who gathered at the Palo Cathedral, the Pope said he is saddened by the change in schedule “because I have something especially prepared for you.”
He explained to the priests, seminarians, nuns, the religious and the lay people gathered in Palo that the pilots insisted that his plane had to leave “because the storm is going to worsen.”
He then asked the people for two things: “First, pray for me,” and with his signature smile, “Second, be quiet.”
Before he left, the Pope was presented with the sculpture of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception made from the debris of the Church that was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda.
It was also reported that Pope Francis gave a parting gift to the people of Leyte: a mosaic of the La Madonna del Popolo, which he already blessed. The mosaic depicts the Mother of God presenting to her all–merciful Son the needs of a people engrossed in the preoccupations of everyday life.
The eye of tropical storm Amang (international codename: Mekkhala), with gusts of up to 130 kilometers per hour, was just 50 kilometers away when the Pope’s plane took off for Manila.
The storm is forecast to follow the Pope west across the Philippines and may bring rains in Manila on Sunday, when a crowd of up to six million people is expected to hear the pontiff celebrate mass at the Rizal Park.