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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pope Francis Honors Filipinos Who Suffered Typhoon’s Devastation 01-17

Pope Francis Honors Filipinos Who Suffered Typhoon’s Devastation

Pontiff Celebrates Mass in Tacloban, the Town Hit Hardest by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013

TACLOBAN, Philippines— Pope Francis paid an emotional tribute Saturday to Filipinos who suffered the devastation of the 2013 typhoon, celebrating a Mass under driving rain in the town that was hit hardest by the disaster.

The pope arrived in Tacloban Saturday morning in what is a major highlight of his weeklong tour of Asia. Pope Francis arrived in the Philippines on Thursday after a two-day visit to Sri Lanka in his first visit as pontiff to both countries.

Before a crowd of hundreds of thousands who waited for hours under heavy rain and wind, the pope spoke of the devastation visited on the Philippines in November 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 6,000 dead nationwide.

During his homily, the pope scrapped his prepared English-language remarks to deliver a moving testimonial to a community that suffered the lion’s share of the casualties and damage in the typhoon. The pontiff, clad in one of the yellow ponchos organizers distributed to the huge crowd, instead spoke to the crowd in his native Spanish, with a cleric translating.

“When I saw from Rome what had happened, I felt I had to be here,” he said as the wind whipped across the altar built on the apron of the newly reconstructed airport. “I’m a little late, but I’m here.”

A rain-drenched crowd wearing yellow and white rain gear listened as Pope Francis spoke during a Mass in Tacloban, Philippines, on Saturday.ENLARGE
A rain-drenched crowd wearing yellow and white rain gear listened as Pope Francis spoke during a Mass in Tacloban, Philippines, on Saturday. ASSOCIATED PRESS

“So many of you have lost everything,” he continued. “I don’t know what to say to you. Some of you lost part of your families. I can only keep silent....But the Lord knows what to say to you.”

Some in the crowd wept while listening. Because of missteps in evacuation procedures, less than 10% of the city’s population had left their homes for shelter when 15-foot waves washed over the area. Even a year after the typhoon, about 25,000 victims in Tacloban were still living in temporary shelters, according to the U.N., though schools and businesses were operating.

On Friday, at a meeting with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III , the pope extolled the Philippines for its “heroic strength, faith and resilience” in the face of natural catastrophes.

“The core of my message will be the poor, the poor who want push ahead, the poor who suffered from the typhoon and who are still suffering the consequences,” the pope said during a news conference Thursday on the flight from Sri Lanka to Manila.
The waiting crowd cheered early Saturday when the pope emerged from his plane on the tarmac at Tacloban, refusing the offer of an umbrella as his papal cap, known as a zucchetto, flew away. The pope did a brief tour of the area in his Popemobile.
The region, which sits on Leyte Island, is the birthplace of Catholicism in the Philippines, with Ferdinand Magellan celebrating Mass there in 1521.

After the Mass at the airport, the pope was scheduled to have lunch with about 30 survivors of the typhoon and earthquake that struck the Philippines just a month before Haiyan hit. Later, Pope Francis will tour a newly built center for the poor that was funded by the Vatican’s charitable arm.

There he will meet some of the local clerics who helped in the relief effort. The Filipino church played a key role in bringing aid to the local population after the typhoon, supplying food and water in the days after the disaster. A local seminary also housed some survivors.

    The pope is scheduled to go to the cathedral in Palo, the main city in the area. Originally built in the 16th century and later serving as a Catholic missionary center, the cathedral became a symbol of the suffering in the region. It lost its roof in the high winds, but otherwise remained intact.
The pope will meet some of the benefactors who financed the new roof on the cathedral and the reconstruction of some local churches. His Saturday schedule has been compressed because of the poor weather.

The pope has frequently underscored the suffering that natural disasters visit, on developing nations in particular.

As a result, some expect that a major encyclical on the environment—the first statement on the topic of such weight by the church—could conclude that climate change is caused by human activity. The pope said Thursday that he may issue the encyclical in June or July.

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