The one and only Pope Francis has just returned to Rome after a weeklong visit to Asia, starting in Sri Lanka where color, inter-religious dialogue and the canonization of the nation’s first saint, Joseph Vaz marked his brief stay. This was followed by the amazing, moving, history-making visit to the Philippines where the Holy Father shattered all previous records for crowds attending a papal Mass, where he was moved to tears more than once and where he probably gave and received as many hugs in three days as he does all year long in Rome. In what many are calling a “first”of a papal trip, Francis donned a plastic raincoat identical to those of the faithful as they all became victims of a torrential downpour and strong winds in Tacloban on the island of Leyte where, in November 2013, 7,000 people died and well over a million were left homeless because of typhoon Yolanda. It poured rain in Manila as well for his final Mass on Sunday for 6-7 million faithful.

As he visited the Philippines, the heart of the Catholic Church in Asia, Pope Francis showed us again and again what a big, loving, merciful, compassionate heart he has. Time and again we saw him overwhelmed, not only by the joy, enthusiasm, zeal, energy and faith of the Filipinos, but also by human desperation, by utter poverty, by man’s cruelty to man, by suffering children who wonder how God lets bad things happen to good, innocent children.

We saw a heart expand with love, with a desire to literally embrace every person in his path, with a desire to say the right words and make the world a better place because of his words.  Joy begat joy. Laughter begat laughter. Songs begat songs.

We saw a heart that broke at learning how many people live in dire poverty, how many children – children! –are forced to look through garbage to find something to eat or a piece of cardboard to serve as both bed and blanket at night.

Most of all, we saw a heart that not only knows how to love deeply, we saw a heart that could cry. (photos news.va)


Here is what Pope Francis said to the young girl, Jun, who asked why God allows bad things to happen to innocent children. And how can we not cry when we hear Jun’s question and Francis’ answer:

I thank you Jun for talking about your experience so bravely. As I said, the heart of your question has no reply. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something. There is a worldly compassion which is useless. You expressed something like this. It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on. But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives.

Dear young boys and girls, today’s world doesn’t know how to cry. The marginalized people, those left to one side, are crying. Those who are discarded are crying. But we don’t understand much about these people in need. Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears. I invite each one here to ask yourself: have I learned how to weep? Have I learned how to weep for the emarginated or for a street child who has a drug problem or for an abused child? Unfortunately there are those who cry because they want something else.

This is the first thing I want to say: let us learn how to weep as she has shown us today and let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer, she did this in tears. The response that we can make today is: let us really learn how to weep.

In the Gospel, Jesus cried for his dead friend, he cried in his heart for the family who lost its child, for the poor widow who had to bury her son. He was moved to tears and compassion whe n he saw the crowds without a pastor. If you don’t learn how to cry, you cannot be a good Christian. This is a challenge.


Francis has landed safely in Rome after a trip of 14 hours. Earlier today, Monday, in Manila, the Pope celebrated Mass privately in the apostolic nunciature where he resided – as is customary on a papal trip – for the duration of his stay.. He traveled by Popemobile to Villamor Air Base, greeting the faithful who lined the streets along the way. Upon his arrival he was received in a VIP area by President Benigno Aquino III who then walked with him to the aircraft where the two chatted briefly. The farewell ceremony took place in the presence of the civil authorities and around a thousand faithful. The papal aircraft, a plane of the Philippine’s national airline, left Manila at 10 a.m. local time, landing in Rome about 6 pm, Rome time.POPE FRANCIS DEPARTS MANILA  2 POPE FRANCIS DEPARTS MANILA

Vatican Radio had the following report: Pope Francis left Manila on Monday morning, after a weeklong trip to Asia which took him to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos lined the streets of Manila to catch a final glimpse of the Holy Father as he went to the airport.

Pope Francis drew over 6 million to his final Mass in Manila’s Luneta Park on Sunday, the largest crowd for a Papal event in history.

At a press conference after the Pope’s departure, the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said everyone in the Philippines was “overwhelmed right now with thanksgiving and gratitude to God” for the trip, and were “challenged” by Pope Francis to face problems such as inequality in the country.

(Listen to excerpts from the press conference in Manila after the departure of Pope Francis: Click here to listen: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-concludes-trip-to-the-philippines)

“The priest, religious, the lay, all of us got the message clearly,” said Cardinal Tagle. “We will call on everyone to put this message into action.”

He added that the papal message on bridging the gap between the rich and poor is “not just for Christians but for all.”

Cardinal Tagle also said Pope Francis is challenging the culture to not blindly accept every novelty.

“I think the Holy Father is also inviting us to be discerning and to be critical,” he said.

“Not everything new is necessarily good.  Here I think the Christian spirituality of discernment can be handy,” continued the Cardinal.  “How do we immerse ourselves in the World of God, in prayer, in the teachings of the Church, and with that deep resource How do you address the changes in the world?”

Cardinal Tagle said when speaking privately with Pope Francis, the Holy Father said one solid foundation is popular religiosity.

“He said it is the simple faith that makes people survive the changes in society,” said Cardinal Tagle.

Bishop Mylo Vergara, the head of the Communications Committee of the Philippines Bishops Conference, said the trip was full of surprises.

“You have witnessed how he did not read the prepared homilies,” Bishop Vergara said, calling it the “homily of the heart”.  He also mentioned the events on Saturday in Tacloban, as a Tropical Storm approached the area.

“I think it is also a first that he wore a raincoat,” he said.

It was also confirmed at the press conference that the Bishops have invited Pope Francis to return to the Philippines next year for the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu.


READ PAPAL QUOTES ON THE POOR, SUFFERING, FAMILIES, AND MORE: (Philippine Star)  — Pope Francis delivered six addresses and homilies during his five-day visit in the Philippines, touching on the topics of social justice, poverty and the family. Below are some key points and quotations from the pontiff: On the poor and marginalized | On lifestyles | On leadership | On Christian life | On the Church | On the family | On suffering | On the Philippines and Filipinos | On women. For more, click here: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/01/19/1414578/99-things-pope-francis-said-philippines

TEARFUL BUT HAPPY FAREWELL FOR POPE, (Philippine Star) – A long line of people who gathered to take part in saying goodbye to Pope Francis this Monday morning didn’t have to bring their thin, transparent raincoats. For once, they were able to wait in comfort with the warm sun shining on their backs.  Upon leaving the Apostolic Nunciature, Pope Francis’ motorcade made its way to Villamor Airbase. Spectators from both sides of the road have agreed that the motorcade was slower this time, maybe upon the request of the pope to interact with more people on his last day.

Arriving at the Villamor Airbase, a group of children from the DSWD performed a farewell number much to the delight of Pope Francis. Government officials were also there to bid the pontiff goodbye. Before entering the plane, the pope once turned towards the crowd, flashed a big smile, and waved. Check out the photos below and enjoy. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/01/20/1414735/photos-tearful-yet-happy-farewell-pope-francis

ICE CREAM FOR A PAPAL FLIGHT – To serve Pope Francis is an honor, and never did the people behind Carmen’s Best Ice Cream guess that the orders by Philippine Airlines would be on board the special flight carrying Pope Francis back to Rome. Paco Magsaysay, one of the people behind the brand, said that when they got the order from PAL, they thought it was just for another chartered flight.

“Initially I didn’t know it was for that flight. I thought the Pope had his own plane going and going out, like a special Vatican plane,” he said. It was only during the delivery that they discovered it would be served during the flight of the PAL plane carrying Pope Francis. For more, click here: http://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/best-eats/81371-ice-cream-flavors-carmens-best-pope-francis

TELECOMMUNICATIONS RETURN TO NORMAL – As soon as Pope Francis’ flight back to Rome took off Monday, January 19, operations of the telecommunications firms returned to normal. A series of disruptions affecting millions of mobile phone subscribers was implemented during the Pope’s 5-day visit. (READ: Papal visit: Netizens react to disrupted telco services)

Such was done to ensure the pontiff’s safety. (READ: No network service? It’s for Pope’s safety, say telcos) The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) directed telecommunications providers to shut off signal in areas visited by the Roman pontiff as mobile phones could be used as triggering device for explosives. For more: http://www.rappler.com/specials/pope-francis-ph/81369-pope-francis-leaves-network-signals-back-normal

MORE INTERESTING RAPPELER.com PAPAL STORIES HERE: http://www.rappler.com/specials/pope-francis-ph/home

FILIPINO JESUITS SERENADE POPE – The 40 Filipino Jesuits who met Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature last January 16 decided to thank the pontiff for his time in a special way: by singing him a song composed by one of their own. A video shared by Fr Archie Carampatan SJ shows the Jesuits singing “Amare et Servire” (To Love and Serve), a song composed by Fr Manoling Francisco SJ, while gathered around Pope Francis.

To thank the Holy Father for spending almost an hour of his precious time with us after his meeting with families at the MOA Arena, we serenaded him with Fr. Manoling’s “Amare et Servire (To Love and Serve)”. This was kinda impromptu singing as Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, while we were waiting for Pope Francis to arrive from MOA Arena, suggested that we sing to the Holy Father at the end of the meeting. Fore more, click here: http://www.rappler.com/specials/pope-francis-ph/81301-filipino-jesuits-serenade-pope-francis

EVEN VATICANISTI IN AWE OF TRIP – Even Vatican-assigned reporters who have covered the Pope for up to 20 years were blown away by what they witnessed in the Philippines. In Manila, a record crowd of 6 million people waited for Pope Francis’ in the rain – with 4 million hearing the Mass at the Quirino Grandstand by the Manila Bay, and 2 million more flocking to surrounding streets to get a glimpse of the head of the Catholic Church.

Giovanna Chirri, a reporter for Italy’s ANSA news agency, has covered the Vatican since 1994. Chirri, a well-respected journalist who broke the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, said she did not expect the “big numbers” that showed up. “It was interesting for me because I’ve followed the Pope for about 20 years. But I wasn’t in Manila 20 years ago,” she told Rappler. “The people are very warm. He’s Latin American, so he is accustomed to the warmth of the people.” For more, click here: http://www.rappler.com/specials/pope-francis-ph/81368-vatican-reporters-pope-philippines

CARDINAL TAGLE ON PAPAL VISIT – Pope Francis sees the future of the Catholic Church in Asia, shared Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, after the Supreme Pontiff concluded his activities for the second day of his visit to the Philippines.

During a press conference at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on Friday evening, Tagle shared that Pope Francis was amazed by the thousands of Filipino faithful who never stop to line up on the streets until his last motorcade of the day.

“When he saw the crowds again, he said, ‘Wow! The Filipinos are energetic! You don’t get tired!’ And well, I said, ‘We are youthful!'” Tagle recalled, laughing. “And he said, ‘That’s true.’ He said, ‘There is a promise there. The future of the Church is here in Asia. As it was in Sri Lanka, the youthfulness of the Church… The future is here,” Tagle said, quoting the Pope. For more, click here: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/01/16/15/filipinos-wow-pope-you-dont-get-tired-says-francis

POPE MEETS FATHER OF VOLUNTEER KILLED IN FREAK ACCIDENT – For the second time on Sunday, Pope Francis had been left almost speechless by Filipinos – first, by a young girl who asked why God lets children suffer; and then, by a man who lost his only child in a freak accident at the papal mass site in Tacloban.

According to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Pontiff initially struggled on how to console Paulino Padasas, the father of Kristel, the 27-year-old volunteer of Catholic Relief Services, but was struck by the man’s faith in an encounter at the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, where Pope Francis stayed. Kristel suffered fatal head injuries when a scaffolding at the stage where the Pope said Mass, amid rains and winds spawned by tropical storm Amang, collapsed. The scaffolding was hit by a sudden strong gust of winds after the Pope had left the Mass site at  the apron of the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport. For more, click here: http://www.interaksyon.com/article/103312/what-faith–dad-of-girl-who-died-in-scaffolding-mishap-surprises-pope-who-consoles-him