Cardinal Tagle: Pope Reduced to Silence by Suffering of Typhoon Victims

Manila Archbishop Says Francis Is a Pastor, Reflecting on Experiences in His Heart, in Light of Gods Word

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Both the Vatican spokesman and the archbishop of Manila suggested the Pope’s visit to Tacloban on Saturday was a highlight of this apostolic trip.

Cardinal Antonio Luis Tagle spoke with Vatican Radio about the few hours that the Pope was able to spend on the island of Leyte, where Typhoon Yolanda wreaked such havoc in November 2013.

Due to another tropical storm on the way, the crowds had to brave wind and rain to attend the Mass the Pope celebrated there. The Holy Father joined the congregation in donning a disposable yellow rain poncho for the Mass.

He gave an improvised <a href=»»>homily in Spanish, promising the victims that even if they might feel let down by Christ due to their suffering, he reigns from the throne of the cross, and understands all human pain since he endured it first.

After the Mass, the Pope had a brief lunch with some 30 Yolanda survivors, having to cut short his time with them due to needing to leave the island before the storm hit.

Cardinal Tagle told Vatican Radio, «I’ll never forget the face of the Holy Father listening to each one.»

As they recounted their stories, he explained, «You could see the Holy Father just shaking his head,» in some moments letting out an audible expression of his grief. «He was suffering.»

But when the cardinal asked him if he wanted to give a message to the survivors, the Pope responded, «What can we say?»

«I thought he would repeat the central message of his homily but before these 30 persons, he himself was reduced to silence,» the cardinal said.

Cardinal Tagle explained that the Pope assured one victim who requested prayers for their deceased family members that he had offered Mass for them when he first heard of the typhoon in 2013. The Holy Father added that his intention at today’s closing Mass in Manila would be for the victims and their families.

There were two other events on the Pope’s Saturday schedule that had to be reduced to brief pass-bys. He blessed a center for the poor named after him, and at the cathedral, where he was to meet with priests and religious, he went briefly to the altar and spoke for just a few moments.

«It was an intense half day,» the cardinal told Vatican Radio «I should say I feel emotionally tired. … My eyes were really fixed on him … what I am really curious about is how he will be affected by our people and the suffering they convey to him.»

The cardinal said he asked the Pope as they boarded the plane how he was doing, if he was worried to be in his first typhoon, etc. Francis responded, «This visit is really for me. I am learning.»

To which Cardinal Tagle reflected, «That’s how to be a pastor. You learn and you never stop learning. You bring [experiences] to your heart, reflect on it in the light of the Word of God.»

For his part, the director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said the bad weather only added to the solemnity of the Pope’s visit to the typhoon victims. It was to be with the victims that the Pope wanted to go to the Philippines in the first place, he explained.

“To be here, not on a sunny day, but on a day of rain and wind, this was the concrete situation in which the experience of being with the people was totally credible” he told Vatican Radio.

Father Lombardi also noted how moved the Pope is as he experiences the affection of the Filipino people: “You cannot be indifferent to see on the streets hundreds of thousands of people waiting to see you for hours, even if you have not the time to meet them personally, they are happy to see you and feel your presence and encouragement”.

This afternoon’s closing Mass is the last event on the Pope’s schedule for this trip, as he returns to Rome on Monday. Between 6 million and 7 million people are expected for the Mass.

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