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Pope Francis safely lands in Manila after shortened trip in Leyte


Pope Francis arrived in Manila around 2 p.m. after cutting his Leyte visit short due to bad weather.

The 78-year-old Pope was flown back to the capital by a Philippine Airlines Airbus A320. 
 
He was received by high-ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.  Members of the military and their families also welcomed the Catholic pontiff, who is on the third of a five-day state and pastoral visit to the Philippines. 
 
The Argentine Pope also blessed the children and the sick persons who lined up on the runway. 
 
Pope Francis had to shorten his stay with the disaster victims in Leyte due to inclement weather brought about by Tropical Storm Amang. 
 
Leyte was placed under Storm Signal No. 2 on Saturday morning. Amang is expected to make landfall over Masbate province at 2 a.m. Sunday.
 
'Truly saddened'
 
While in Tacloban City, the Argentine Pope officiated Holy Mass at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport. 
 
In his homily, the Holy Father consoled with the victims of super typhoon Yolanda. 
 
"Jesus understands because he also underwent all the trials you have also underwent," the Pope said in Spanish. "Jesus never lets you down."
 
In Palo town, his next stop after Tacloban City, Pope Francis took time to personally inform the faithful of the change in the schedule.
 
"I have to tell you something that displeases me. The plan today was the plane was going to leave at 5 in the afternoon," said Pope Francis, who was scheduled for a packed day that included blessing a center for the poor named after him and a mass grave of those who perished during Yolanda.
 
However, "There’s a second grade typhoon around us unfortunately, and the pilots of the airplane have insisted that we have to leave at 1 o’clock,” he added, speaking in Spanish through a translator.
 
"I am told that after 1 p.m. it (weather) is going to get much worse."
 
Pope Francis apologized to the people gathered inside Palo cathedral for the development.
 
"I apologize to you, I am sad about this, truly saddened, because I had something prepared specially for you. But let us leave everything in the hands of the Lady, because I have to go now," he said.
 
Airport mishap
 
Minutes after the Pope's plane left Tacloban airport after 1 p.m., another plane with top government officials on board skidded off the runway.
 
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Communications Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr. were on board the private jet, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told dzBB radio.
 
"Lahat sila safe. Chine-check up lang sila ngayon," said Roxas.
 
Freak accident
 
Meanwhile, a 21-year-old woman from Samar died at the airport just after the Mass officiated by Pope Francis ended, the Palo Archdiocese said.
 
In an interview with reporters, Fr. Amadeo Alvero, Palo Archdiocese' Social Communications Director, confirmed that a woman, whom he did not identify, died after the scaffoldings of a speaker near the altar fell on her.
 
"Nahulog dahil sa hangin," he noted, adding that the large crowd that gathered for the event had nothing to do with the incident.
 
"Pupuntahan ko siya ngayon sa Perpetual Succor para blessan ko," he added, referring to a makeshift hospital at the airport. "We are sorry that this had to happen."
 
Culminating activities
 
Before he leaves Manila for the Vatican on Monday, the Holy Father is scheduled to meet with religious leaders and the youth at the University of Santo Tomas campus on Sunday. 
 
For the culminating activity of his five-day state visit and apostolic journey, Pope Francis will lead an open-air Mass at Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park. 
 
Some six million Filipinos are expected to attend the Concluding Mass. —with a report from Amanda Fernandez and Xianne Arcangel/KG/JST/BM, GMA News