For months now the country has been a-buzz with news that Pope Francis is coming to the Philippines. Yesterday, all preparations were realized when "Santo Papa" (Holy Father) safely landed in the Philippines from his visit to Sri Lanka at around 5:30pm.
At the first sight of his plane, crowds in Manila began cheering. Upon the actual landing of his plane, bells all over the country begun ringing. For this country, the biggest Catholic Community in Asia (and 3rd in the world), the coming of a Pope and particularly THIS Pope has brought much rejuvenation to our church.
The visit's theme is MERCY & COMPASSION. Pope Francis' visit shall give particular highlight to those affected by Typhoon Yolanda and Bohol Earthquake. At this very moment (10:35am) I am listening to his speech in Malacanang and he highlights the ff:
1. Resilience of Filipino people in the face of tragedy
2. Youth and Family as the building blocks of faith and community
I feel a special bond to this particular Pope:
1. He is a Jesuit
Having spent my college years in Ateneo de Manila (a Jesuit university) I understand and embrace Pope Francis' mission of giving importance to the poor and marginalized. During my college years, Ateneo ingrained in me a special love for those who struggle everyday for food, medicine, etc. Third year Theology gave importance to the ecclesiastical theology that started in Mexico and Argentina -- where Pope Francis is from. Starting faith building at the grassroots level -- the family -- is how Roman Catholicism becomes relevant, saving and inspirational in today's trying times.
2. He is from the developing world
Most popes in the past few years come from the Developed World. Pope Francis is from Argentina, a country that is like the Philippines -- developing and growing from the embers of civil war, poverty, corruption, etc. So this means He knows what we face every day and understands it very well. This is why Pope Francis has preached a gospel of JOY -- of being the face of compassion at all times. To me this is the kind of renewal our church needs, to be the face of compassion.
Seeing his plane land in NAIA yesterday I couldn't help but get teary-eyed. It was unexplained, but seeing him land was a very emotional moment for me. I sent a prayer up to God asking him for a special petition and for Pope Francis to be an interceder.
Viva Il Papa! Bienvenido Pope Francis!
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