Pope Francis Welcomed by Ecstatic Crowds in Manila

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
16 Jan 2015

Pope Francis met by President Beningo Aquino 111 in Manila

Hundreds of thousands of people from Manila airport to the city centre cheered the arrival of Pope Francis at the start of his five-day visit to the Philippines which is home to 80 million Catholics or 7 per cent of the global Catholic population.

It is the first papal visit to the country in 20 years and Pope Francis said a priority of his visit would be to send a message to the poor who face "social, spiritual and existential"  injustices.

Arriving ahead of schedule from Colombo, Sri Lanka and although an official welcoming ceremony was scheduled for the following morning, there were still huge crowds at the airport including young people singing and dancing.

He was also greeted by President Benigno Aquino 111 and the Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who joined the Pope in his open-sided popemobile for the 11 km trip to the Apostolic Nunciature in the centre of the city where he is staying.

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos lined the streets to catch a glimpse or a wave from Pope Francis who has been described recently in the Philippines as a "unifying and revitalising force".

Clearly delighted to be in Manila

Thousands of people again turned out this morning at Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila when Pope Francis arrived to celebrate Mass with priests and religious.

Many had even camped-out on the lawns around the Cathedral and cheered loudly when he arrived with Cardinal Tagle in the popemobile.

Ahead of the Eucharistic celebration Cardinal Tagle welcomed the Holy Father to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception - the first Cathedral Church in the Philippines.

Cardinal Tagle described how the Cathedral had been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Destroyed by fire, earthquakes and even bombing during the battle of liberation in 1945.

"We are gathered today in the eighth cathedral building that we closed three years ago for repairs. Now it warmly welcomes you. This cathedral has been razed to the ground many times, but it refuses to vanish. It boldly rises from the ruins - just like the Filipino people. Yes, Holy Father, we bishops, priests and religious men and women have seen and lived the suffering and determination of our people. "We are afflicted in every way possible, but we are not crushed." he said.

Thousands lined the streets from the airport to the city centre to see Pope Francis

In his Homily Pope Francis spoke of the danger of materialism and that by "only becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters."

He also had a special word for the young priests, religious and seminarians.

"I ask you to share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers.  Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent, yet continue to see the Church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope.  Be present to those who, living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, are broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets.  Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.  As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God's plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture."

This was the first of three Masses the Pope was to celebrate during his visit.

Pope Francis and Manila's Archbishop Cardinal Tagle prior to the Mass for Priests, Religious and Seminarians

There will be a huge open-air Mass in Manila on Sunday and a visit to Tacloban to meet survivors of Typhoon Haiyan which killed or left missing more than 7,000 people and obliterated villages in November 2013.

Security will be particularly tight with protection having been tested in the past. In 1970 a man attacked Pope Paul V1 with a knife at Manila airport and in 1995 Manila police discovered a plot by Muslim militants to assassinate Pope John Paul 11.

Crowds at the open-air Mass in the capitol's Rizal Park on Sunday could exceed five million.

For full text of the Homily of Pope Francis on 16 January click here