POPE WATCH: Pope Francis celebrates Philippine Santo Niño festival in Mass

By on January 18, 2015

Pope Francis visited Malacañan Palace this morning for official welcoming ceremonies. The Pontiff and President Aquino delivered statements during a general audience of senior government officials and members of the Diplomatic Corps (Photo by the Malacañang Photo Bureau)
Pope Francis (Photo by the Malacañang Photo Bureau)

Pope Francis is in the Philippines on Sunday, the final full day of a weeklong trip that also took him to Sri Lanka. Here are some glimpses of his visit as it unfolds:



Pope Francis celebrated his final Mass on his visit to the Philippines on the same day devotees celebrate the feast of the Child Jesus, or Santo Nino (Holy Child).

Many who had gathered for the Mass carried images of the Santo Nino in colorful garb, hoping they would be blessed by the pope.

Francis said the Santo Nino’s message is  “We are all God’s children, members of God’s family.”

The biggest Santo Nino festival, which falls on the third Sunday of January, is held in Cebu, a city about 575 kilometres (350 miles) south of Manila where an image of the Child Jesus brought by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan was found. More than 450 years old, the image is the oldest Christian icon in the country.

Spain colonized the archipelago and imposed Catholicism.

Devotees believe the Santo Nino is miraculous and display replicas in various sizes and different garments in homes, cars, public vehicles and offices. Many hospitals and schools around the country are named after it.

– By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines – Twitter: twitter.com/seveto



“We squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets. We squander our money on gambling and drink. We turn in on ourselves. We forget to remain focused on the things that really matter.”

– Pope Francis in his homily at the Rizal Park Mass.



Francis Tolentino, chairman of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, said that as of 1 p.m. there were 3 million people in Rizal Park and surrounding streets, and he expected the number to swell further.

– By Teresa Cerojano, AP writer, Manila, Philippines – Twitter: twitter.com/mtmanila



“I’m really, really happy, never mind that I get wet until the ceremonies finish, as long as I’m here, I’ll be present.” – Genie Mutya, 35, resident of Valenzuela town.

“I feel very excited. It’s very beautiful and meaningful for me. It’s the first time for me to come here. And I do believe that all the people here, it’s really the work of the Holy Spirit.” -John Hai, 36, theologian from Myanmar.

– By Johnson Lai, AP videojournalist, Manila, Philippines



The pope arrived at Rizal Park to a rocking welcome as he circulated around the crowd in a popemobile.

Led by an emcee, the rain-drenched crowd greeted the pope’s arrival with chants of ‘Papa Francisco, mahal ng Pilipino” (Pope Francis, loved by Filipinos) to a rhythmic beat.

Many who carried images of the Infant Jesus raised them up toward him. The pope waved back, sometimes responding with a double thumbs-up sign.



In steady rain, the pope left the Vatican diplomatic mission and travelled past huge crowds on his way to Rizal Park, where he was to celebrate the outdoor Mass.

He rode in a popemobile loosely based on the design of a jeepney, a modified U.S. Army World War II jeep with an extended end that is a common means of public transport in the Philippines.



Francis offered his personal condolences to the father of a young Catholic volunteer who was killed Saturday while helping organize his Mass in typhoon-hit Tacloban.

The Vatican said Francis met Sunday for about 20 minutes with the girl’s father at the Vatican Embassy in Manila. Spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi described the meeting as moving. The father, Lombardi said, was overwhelmed by the loss but was “consoled thinking that she had helped prepare the meeting of the people with the pope.”

Police said Kristel Padasas, a volunteer with Catholic Relief Services, died when scaffolding fell on her. Witnesses said a sudden gust of wind toppled the structure, which served as platform for a large loudspeaker during the Mass.

Francis opened his appearance at Manila’s main Catholic university on Sunday with a moment of silence to pray for the girl.

– By Nicole Winfield, AP Writer, Manila, Philippines – Twitter: twitter.com/bnwinfield



A 12-year-old girl tearfully asked Pope Francis why God allowed suffering by children. Listening to her intently and visibly moved, Francis couldn’t offer a direct reply.

Glyzelle Palomar, a former street child and one of four young people who spoke during his encounter with Filipino youth, told the pope that many children abandoned by their parents fall victim to drugs and prostitution.

:Why is God allowing something like this to happen, even to innocent children? And why are there so few who are helping us?” the girl said, breaking down in tears, unable to finish reading what she had prepared to say to the pope.

“Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question,” Francis said.  “There are some realities that you can only see through eyes that are cleansed by tears.”

He said the marginalized, those who fall on the wayside and people who are “discarded” cry.

“But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don’t know how to cry,” the pope said.

– By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines – Twitter: twitter.com/seveto



“I am not satisfied just seeing him on TV. This is a once in a lifetime chance to see him in the flesh, even from afar.”

– Rosalinda Kho, 68, with her 44-year-old daughter.

“He doesn’t want to be treated as someone special. Look at his vehicles, they are not bullet-proof, he wanted them to be open so that he can feel he is close to the people. How will you be able to protect your followers if you are not with them, if you are afraid to show yourself, to stand behind them or stand before them?”

– Rommel Monton, 28, a call centre agent with his niece and 4-year-old daughter.



Francis drew applause with these comments to a student audience at the University of Santo Tomas:

“Women have much to tell us in today’s society (applause). Sometimes we’re too macho, and we don’t leave enough room for women. Women are able to see things with different eyes than us (applause). Women are able to ask questions that men can’t understand. … When the next pope comes, please have more women and girls among your numbers.”



Pope Francis opened his meeting with the Filipino youth on a sombre note, reporting to thousands gathered at the centuries-old University of Santo Tomas the sad news that a female church volunteer had died during his visit to central Tacloban city on Saturday, and led prayers for the woman.

“She was 27 years old, young like yourselves,” he said. `”She was an only daughter.”

He said the woman’s mother works in Hong Kong and was returning home awaited by her father.

The woman helped organize the Mass in Tacloban. It was celebrated in a rain- and wind-swept field close to the Tacloban airport.

Police said Kristel Padasas, a volunteer with the Catholic Relief Services, died when scaffolding fell on her. Witnesses said a sudden gust of wind toppled the structure, which served as platform for a large loudspeaker.

Francis cut short his Tacloban visit because of an approaching storm that caused foul weather.

_ By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines _ Twitter: twitter.com/seveto



With millions expected to descend on Manila’s Rizal Park for the final Mass on Pope Francis’ trip to the Philippines, the government has put out a public service announcement on what people should do – and not do – to avoid getting hurt.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda unveiled a virtual laundry list of rules:

– Don’t bring the elderly, pregnant women and children.

– No bomb jokes that may cause panic. No weapons of any kind.

– Don’t wear jewelry or bring excessive money that can attract pickpockets.

– Bring food, water, personal medicines, raincoats, an ID – but NO umbrellas.

– Avoid bringing bags that will take a long time to inspect; best to use transparent plastic ones.

Public Service Announcement:

– By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines – Twitter: twitter.com/seveto



A nonstop stream of people headed toward Rizal Park in downtown Manila on Sunday morning, hours before Pope Francis was to celebrate an outdoor Mass expected to draw several million.

Some camped outside the park overnight to be the first ones in when the gates opened around 6 a.m.

Many walked a good distance up Roxas Boulevard, a main street along Manila Bay that has been closed. Others took positions behind barricades in hopes of seeing the pope when his motorcade passes later in the day.

Those going to the park carried snacks in clear plastic bags to sustain them through the wait ahead. A few had statues of the infant Jesus, one of the most important icons in the Philippines, as Sunday also marked the feast of Santo Nino.

– By Ken Moritsugu, AP writer, Manila, Philippines – Twitter: twitter.com/kmorit