MANILA – Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Thursday night that Pope Francis has been inspired by the spirit and collective faith of the Filipino people who came out to greet him as he arrived in Manila. Lombardi assured the public that the pontiff is revitalized, and in “good health and spiritual standing.”
“The meeting with Filipinos will encourage him. You will have a Pope with good health and spiritual standing in the next few days with you,” Lombardi said in the first press conference held after the pope’s arrival.
“As a pastor, he takes energy from the people around him. He saw the audience, the big celebration. He is encouraged and inspired by the people,” he added, referencing the exuberant welcome the Holy Father received upon his arrival at the Villamor Air Base, and along the route of the motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila.
The trip – which marks 78-year-old Pope Francis’ second journey to Asia – kicked-off in predominantly Buddhist Sri-Lanka, where the pontiff was received with warm admiration by Christian and non-Christian Sri Lankans, alike.
Analysts had earlier expressed concern that the Pope would be too tired to equal the passion and fervor of the Philippine Catholic populace.
Before leaving for the Philippines, the Pope – exhausted from his schedule in Sri Lanka – had cancelled his meeting with bishops in Colombo. The Pontiff was, however, able to say his final Mass in the nation, with almost a million faithful in attendance.
A bigger number is expected at the Mass to be held at Rizal Park on Sunday, Lombardi said, calling the Philippines the “center of Catholic Church in the continent.”
He added that the Pope has wanted to visit the country from the time he began his reign, and deemed it a “necessity” to uplift the people of the Philippines.
“It’s also an occasion [to focus] on the tragedies that the Philippines experienced in the past years. The desire to come, be present, is to encourage, help spiritually the people who suffered from great disasters and from other problems whether from natural or social causes,” Lombardi said.