Heartfelt thanks to the many people – including a number of fans in the Phlippines – who wrote comments on my Facebook page (/joansrome) and to those who emailed me about my blog and my Facebook postings. Nothing could have beat actually being on the ground in Sri Lanka or the Philippines – or aboard the papal plane! – but good reporting from colleagues helps paint an accurate and colorful picture.

Here’ what people think:

ALLAN – He (Pope Francis) deals with reality in the society. Basic but crucial issues and concerns and he plunged into it unhesitatingly, trustingly. This is the faith that could testify all brave men like Pope Francis. His engagement, message, and missions is easy to understand because he put it on a real life situation. He live what he preach. I think this is what it is all about.

ANN MARIE – Been glued to my Filipino channel and EWTN the entire time. I read so many articles and browsed through so many videos and photos. Can’t get enough of Pope Francis and this heartwarming and inspiring experience. I just came from Rome and have seen the Pope there but I wanted to be in Manila experiencing first hand this historic event.

PATTI –  6 million people to share Holy Mass with the Shepherd of Christ.!! through their suffering faith has stood solid!! Bless our sisters and brothers in the Philipines!

DEXTER –  “I was there Miss Joan Lewis, it was super packed but i didnt hear anyone complained. I heard people say, “the smile of the Pope erases all the inconvenience” what a blessing it was…”

MARY – I agree, this trip by Pope Francis IS historic, but I also believe the Pope’s trip to the Holy Land, and other evangelization and ecumenical outreaches the Pope has made are historic. In my view, Pope Francis is the best Pope we have had in my lifetime when considering the living out of the full scope of the Catholic faith. Francis is truly a man for all seasons and for all people. I am praying for him, that his life and ministry will be long and blessed and glorify the Lord.

BRYAN – Let’s pray that God will bless this beautiful country with protection from the calamities of nature, especially now that “Peter” has visited His people there.

MARICELA – PAPA FRANCISCO, un regalo para el mundo, no lo pierdas de vista!

A NICE TOUCH!  In the middle of his press conference with the Vatican-accredited reporters during the flight back to the Vatican, the 78-year-old pontiff brought out a birthday cake for journalist Valentina Alazraki. “We can’t say how old you are but you’ve worked here since you were a child, as a child, as a child. Best wishes,” the Pope joked before concluding the press briefing. Pope Francis had asked Filipino pastry chef Tippi Tambunting last Friday to bake a birthday cake for his surprise. He also asked additional cakes for the rest of the media people on the plane.


Pope Francis returned last evening from his weeklong trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines and, as has been his wont on papal flights, gave an interview to journalists as they flew to Rome from Manila. The Pope was asked about his impressions of the events and people in the Philippines, future travel plans, responsible parenthood, corruption  and the need for the world to learn how to cry. He emphasized that he was most impressed with the many gestures of the Filipino people, gestures that show they know much about life, loving, caring and sharing and family, but they also “know suffering.” He mentioned their “true enthusiasm, joy, happiness, able to celebrate even in the rain.

The Holy Father spent an hour with journalists during the inflight interview. I am poting a separate column on that give-and-take called “An Hour With Pope Francis.”

After landing at Rome’s Ciampino Airport but before returning to the Vatican, Francis went to the basilica of St. Mary Major to pray to the Virgin “Salus populi romani” and to give thanks, as he has done since being elected Pope, for the positive outcome of his apostolic trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.


Asia News reports from Colombo:  “For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, we Tamil had the chance to see the Pope in our native places. It was truly a great blessing, not only for us but for all the people of this country”: This is the reaction of some Tamils from the north of the island describing to AsiaNews the significance of Francis’ visit to the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Madhu in the diocese of Mannar, on January 14.

The moment of prayer together with the victims of the civil war was one of the pivotal moments of the journey made by the pontiff to the former Ceylon. “We believe,”said an elderly couple, “that Pope Francis’ visit is a good thing not just for us Tamils, but also for all civilians in the country, without distinction. In addition, we are pleased that he was welcomed by a leader with a good heart, kind and disciplined, not a corrupt president.”

A Tamil Hindu doctor says he is “happy that the Pope, spiritual leader of the Catholics, has come to visit his flock. And it was nice that he visited a Buddhist temple. His example teaches us to respect all religions and to allow everyone to practice their own. I appreciate Pope Francis: He came at a  good time, when the country has changed government and nourishes a new hope for a better future. ”

For a Catholic nun, the visit of Francis to the Marian shrine of Madhu “will remain engraved forever in our hearts. It is the first time for a Pope to come here to the north, meeting the most affected by the conflict. The credit also goes to Msgr. Rayappu Joseph [bishop of Mannar, ed], who strongly wanted his presence here.”


(News.va) After the historic visit of Pope Francis, the bishops of the Philippines gathered in Manila for the plenary assembly of the Bishops’ Conference. The meeting will last until January 22 and will discuss the main issues such as the new evangelization and the “Year of the Poor,” proclaimed by the local Church for 2015.

Speaking to Fides (news agency) Fr. Melvin Castro, secretary of the Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference said, they would look at these urgent needs in a different light after the Pope’s visit. “Among the Bishops, among the clergy and the faithful, there is a great enthusiasm for what Pope Francis donated to our Church, he said. The Pope received spiritual energy from the crowd of faithful who welcomed him, and our Church in the Philippines received great consolation and strong enthusiasm to live and profess its faith, thanks to Pope Francis’ presence and words,” continues Fr.Castro.

“The Pope,” he said, “showed us a model of Church that is attentive towards the poor. This approach will have a strong impact in the long term in the Philippine Church. The poor teach that man is worth for what he is, and not for what he has.” Fr. Castro also notes the impetus given to the Filipino laity that, after the Pope’s trip, “will bear fruit of a greater involvement in pastoral care, especially for families and young people.” With regards to the family, Fr. Castro noted: “We are happy that the Pope spoke out in defense of the family and stigmatized the ideology that comes from Western culture, which exports divorce, abortion, homosexual marriage, inviting us to promote and defend family with the traditional values of Philippine culture,” concluded Fr. Castro.