MANILA — Pope Francis was impressed and very happy with the warm reception of Filipinos after arriving at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City late Thursday afternoon.
According to Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, the Holy Father was pleased on how the Filipino people warmly welcomed him.
“He is happy to be here finally in the Philippines. First encounter with the Filipino people was very impressive, touching. Important, the pope has received a very strong impression, spiritual experience with your people,” he said during the press briefing at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.
The pope was likewise overwhelmed with the mammoth crowd who patiently waited for more than three hours and cheered him as his motorcade passed the streets towards his Apostolic Nunciature residence in Taft Avenue, Manila.
“The pope was very impressed. The Holy Spirit has to work to touch the hearts of the people that we see. The Holy Spirit has to work during these days of grace of mercy and compassion,” the Vatican official said.
A fiesta-like atmosphere greeted Pope Francis upon his arrival in the country late Thursday afternoon for his five-day state and apostolic visit.
The plane carrying the 78-year-old Holy Father landed at the Villamor Air Base at 5:30 p.m.
Lombardi noted that the pontiff did not give his arrival message since he will give a number of speeches, messages and homilies during his stay in the country.
“The pope would have a number of public speeches and homilies and this evening no public speech of pope,” he explained.
The Vatican spokesperson added that Pope is excited on his scheduled activities in the coming days.
“Yes, obviously, but he loves people and he knows Filipino people in Europe and Argentina and Filipino people are everywhere and he understands very well the enthusiasm that he will experience here is something particular and the entire action would be around him waiting for word of consolation of love, hope. And he said the Holy Spirit would have to work, and he hopes that the Holy Spirit would find prepared heart to receive more grace in these days,” Lombardi said.
Asked if the Pope is in good shape, the Vatican official noted that even if the Pope is tired, the people or big crowd encourages or energizes him.
“The pope has a charisma that if he is with the people, he gets energy from the people around him. The audience, the big celebration, he feels encouraged, inspired by the people present and he feels energized even if he is already tired before,” he said.
He added that Pope Francis scheduled meeting with President Benigno Aquino III on Friday will be personal and short.
“This visit normally these meetings are not meeting with the long and profound discussion. More friendly, courtesy meeting. Normally, there is discussion of concrete points, but on this occasion the President and Pope would have short time,” he said.
On Friday, the pontiff will meet the country’s Chief Executive in Malacanang as well as the members of the diplomatic corps.
After the meeting with Aquino, Pope Francis will proceed to the Manila Cathedral, where he will lead the Eucharistic Celebration for bishops, priests, men and women religious to be followed by the meeting with the families at SM Mall of Asia Arena.