Pope Francis concluded his apostolic visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines this morning and is now headed towards Rome. Thousands of Filipinos lined the streets to say goodbye to the Holy Father as he made his way to Villamor Air Base in Manila.
Upon his arrival, the Pope was received by President Benigno Aquino III and spent several minutes in private conversation with him.
Shortly after, he made his way to the airplane accompanied by the President and greeted by some of the faithful, volunteers and authorities who helped organize his visit. His final farewell was to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, who embraced him.
The Philippine Airlines flight departed Manila at approximately 10:12 a.m. The 15 hour flight is expected to land in Rome’s Ciampino Airport at 5:40 p.m., local time.
Shortly after the Pope’s departure, Cardinal Tagle along with Bishop Mylo Vergara, head of the Communications Committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines expressed their joy at the success of the papal visit.
According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Tagle expressed his “thanksgiving and gratitude to God”, especially for those who helped organize and provide security at the event.
Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines was one of the biggest security operations with an estimated 40,000 police and military personnel deployed in Manila and Tacloban.
“One of the presidential guards,” Cardinal Tagle recalled, “approached me in tears, and he said: ‘Thank you for mentioning us in the Luneta (Rizal Park). When we heard you thanking the military, the police and the people behind the security, we felt that all the tiredness was lifted.’”
When asked if the Pope said any final words to him before leaving, Cardinal Tagle said laughingly: “He said: ‘See you in Rome in February!’”