Pope Francis 'very impressed' by Filipinos' passionate welcome
January 15, 2015 8:08pm
An estimated 800,000 to a million Filipinos gathered between Villamor Air Base in Pasay City to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila on Thursday to offer Pope Francis a welcome that only the lone predominantly Catholic country in Asia could give.

Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, the director of the Vatican Press Office, said the Filipino faithful did not at all disappoint.

Wire agency Agence France-Presse described the Filipino reception as "rapturous."
"The Pope was very impressed," Lombardi said in a news conference at the Vatican Media Center, a short distance away from the Pope's official residence in Manila.
"The first encounter of the Pope [with the Filipino people] was very impressive, important, and touching," he added.
Aside from the welcoming party at the air base and the crowd that gathered in front of the nunciature, Filipinos lined the route of the papal motorcade to give the 78-year-old pontiff an ardent receptiion.

Lawyer Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority and a member of the organizing committee of the papal visit, said the agency estimate of the people that gathered was between 800,000 to a million.
President Benigno Aquino III and members of the Cabinet received Pope Francis at Villamor Air Base late Thursday afternoon. 
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Socrates Villegas, and other prelates were also at the airbase to welcome the pontiff.
Students from various Catholic schools in Parañaque performed three dances to welcome the Pope at the airbase.

Church bells tolled

It was the beginning of a five-day trip in the Catholic Church's Asian heartland that is tipped to attract a world-record papal crowd.
Church bells tolled across the former Spanish colony as the charismatic pontiff flew into the capital of Manila after a successful visit to Sri Lanka.
Francis smiled as he looked out the window of his plane upon touchdown, greeted by the sight of hundreds of children on the tarmac chanting "Welcome Pope Francis!" and "We love you, Pope Francis!"
Francis has said his two-nation tour is aimed at adding momentum to the Church's already impressive growth in Asia, with its support in the Philippines the benchmark for the rest of the region. 
Eighty percent of the former Spanish colony's 100 million people practice a famously fervent brand of Catholicism, and the pope is set to enjoy thunderously enthusiastic crowds throughout his stay.
"Every step he makes, every car ride he takes, every moment he stays with us is precious for us," Villegas said as he called on all Filipinos to make an effort to see him.
Hundreds of thousands of people crowded the route the pope passed as he made a 35-minute trip in a "popemobile" from the airport to the Vatican's embassy to rest overnight.
The pope stood on the back of the vehicle, which had no walls, waving and smiling constantly to the crowd.
"It's a blessing to see the pope. That's why we're here," school teacher Jeannie Blesado, 35, told AFP.
Personally comfort Yolanda survivors
Pope Francis has several engagements in Manila but Church leaders said the Holy Father's main intention was to personally comfort the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Leyte.

Yolanda, which hit Central Philippines in November 2013, was the strongest typhoon on record to ever make landfall.
More than 40,000 policemen and soldiers are deployed to different areas to secure the Holy Father during his five-day stay in the country.
This is the first time that Pope Francis visited the Philippines, and Southeast Asia since taking the helm of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013. 
The 78-year-old charismatic pontiff went to Sri Lanka for a three-day visit, to kick off his Asian tour, before coming to the Philippines.
The first Jesuit Pope who hailed from Argentina gave Sri Lanka its first saint, Catholic priest Joseph Vaz, who led the rebuilding of the Church in the country during the 17th and 18th centuries after the Dutch declared Calvinism as the official religion.
The 266th Pope of the Catholic Church is expected to draw some six million people in an open air Mass on Sunday at Rizal Park in Manila. —with a report from Agence France Presse/NB/JST, GMA News

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