Thousands Welcome Pope Francis to Manila

Pontiff Visits Chapel in Colombo Prior to Departure From Sri Lanka

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Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos excitedly greeted Pope Francis as he arrived on the second leg of his Apostolic Trip to Asia. The Holy Father’s plane landed in Manila’s Villamor Air Base at 6:35 p.m.local time after a six plus-hour flight from Colombo International Airport.

Before departing Sri Lanka, the Pope sent a message to President Maithrapala Sirisena, thanking him and the people of the country for their welcome.

«As I depart from Sri Lanka, I extend to you, the government and your fellow citizens my heartfelt gratitude for your warm welcome and every kindness shown to me during my visit,» he wrote. «I renew to your Excellency and the entire country the assurance of my prayers for peace, unity and prosperity.»

After celebrating a private Mass this morning at the Apostolic Nunciature in Colombo, the Holy Father made his way to the airport. However, he made a quick stop at a Chapel dedicated to «Our Lady of Lanka,» at the Benedict XVI Cultural Institute.

According to the Holy See Press Office, the Pope was received by 10 Jesuit priests at the institute and remained for a few minutes in silent prayer. Also present were local fisherman, many of whom helped in the building of the Center.

Arrival in Manila

Music, dancing and cheers from thousands of people welcomed the Holy Father as his plane reached the tarmac of Manila’s air base. The Holy Father was greeted by President Benigno Aquino III as well as bishops and prelates of the country, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila.

The Holy Father waved to the excited crowd, which included hundreds of youth performing a choreographed dance in the Pope’s honor. After a few brief moments in the airport, the 78-year-old Pontiff made his way to the Popemobile.

Thousands of Filipinos lined the streets and waved banners in what seemed an endless throng of people leading up the nine kilometer (five and a half mile) stretch that lead to the Apostolic Nunciature of Manila. The Holy Father will conclude his day with a private dinner at the Nunciature.

Tomorrow morning, Pope Francis will travel to the Presidential Palace in Manila for an official welcoming ceremony, followed by a private meeting with the President and a meeting with government authorities and the diplomatic corps. 

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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