Millions of singing, cheering Catholics choked the streets of the Philippine capital Manila on Sunday to hear Pope Francis celebrate Mass, ignoring blustery weather in one of the world’s biggest outpourings of papal devotion.
The Pope made a triumphant entrance for the Mass with millions in Rizal Park (Luneta) on Sunday aboard a Popemobile styled after the nation’s iconic, flamboyant and much-loved “jeepney” minibus.
The pontiff, standing in the elevated open body of the uniquely Filipino version of his Popemobile, traveled through the streets of Manila for the main event of his visit.
Wearing a thin plastic yellow poncho over his vestments, the 78-year-old pontiff smiled and waved to hundreds of thousands who had lined the route to the venue for the Mass.
The rectangular vehicle with distinctive giant grille repeatedly stopped so he could reach into the cheering masses and pick up babies to kiss and bless them.
The Pope rode the jeepney Popemobile to Rizal Park where millions had gathered to hear him celebrate Mass, in one of the world’s biggest papal gatherings.
Filipinos are famous for practicing a passionate brand of Catholicism, and millions descended on Manila’s streets to create a joyous atmosphere that defied the gloomy skies.
“We are devotees of the Pope,” Bernie Nacario, 53, said as he stood amid a torrent of people with his wife and two young children, hoping to reach the park where the pontiff will say Mass.
“The Pope is an instrument of the Lord and if you are able to communicate with him, it is just like talking to God himself.”
As groups of friends sang nearby and other people burst into spontaneous cheers, Nacario said he was a long-time arthritis sufferer, but that on Sunday his pain had disappeared.
“It is as if the Lord has cured my ailment.”
Rapturous receptions throughout the Pope’s Philippine journey, including millions crowding his motorcade routes in Manila, have cemented the nation’s status as the Church’s Asian role model.
May Dupaya, 41, stood on Sunday afternoon with a black plastic bag to shield her from the rain, after lending her raincoat to her mother.
“I am prepared to get wet for Pope Francis. I’m prepared to get sick for Francis,” Dupaya told Agence France-Presse as her 18-year-old daughter huddled next to her in a plastic poncho.