It was a hectic Saturday for Pope Francis: He adjusted his schedule twice, to avoid the worst effects of Typhoon “Amang.” He flew twice in the space of six hours. He said Mass before hundreds of thousands of people. And he met the people of Tacloban and Palo he had been wanting to meet since November 2013, when Supertyphoon “Yolanda” struck the Philippines.
It was, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi SJ said in a press briefing, an “engaging” day. But the revised schedules also raised questions.
1. What did the Pope do, when he returned to Manila at around 2 pm, at least three hours early?
“The Pope today had a little rest,” Lombardi said. But he also held meetings with “his collaborators,” he added.
Many of those who responded to the question the Inquirer posted on social media—”3 hours early: What should @Pontifex do?”—had suggested that Francis use the time precisely to rest.
2. Has the Pope ever said Mass in a raincoat before?
Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle asked him the same question: “Have you worn a raincoat over your chasuble before?” Tagle said the Pope replied: “No. This is the first time.”
Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, also asked him whether he had ever been in a typhoon before. The Pope said No too. “Another first,” Tagle told local and international reporters.
3. Did the much-anticipated lunch with 30 Yolanda survivors push through?
Yes, Tagle said, but because Amang was bearing down on Eastern Visayas, it was shortened to only 15 minutes. “It was already a quarter to 12. And we were given only until 12.”
But Tagle said the encounter with the survivors made a strong impression on the Pope, leaving him both “quite shaken” and “inspired.”
4. Did the Pope think of cancelling the trip to Tacloban at all?
The answer was No, Lombardi said. At one point, he recalled the Pope saying, “I have come to the Philippines to be in Tacloban.”
On the way to Tacloban, the question of moving the venue of the airport Mass was raised. “This morning during the flight there was already a phone connection.” Because of the increasing “difficulty to say the Mass in the open air,” should it be moved to the Cathedral, or perhaps to another place? Lombardi said the Pope replied: “Absolutely not. It is impossible. Where are the people? We have to be with them.”
5. Was the singing of the birthday song at the Cathedral, in honor of a cardinal’s birthday, planned?
Tagle said that because the Pope wanted to follow the pilots’ instructions to leave Tacloban at 1 pm, “his plan was to bless the people from the door” of the Cathedral. “But when he saw the people,” he came down and entered.
Francis apologized for having to leave earlier than expected—but not after asking the congregation to sing “Happy Birthday” to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
6. What should the faithful do with the prepared texts that the Pope was ready to read, but did not?
In what is surely a highlight of an already memorable pastoral visit, Francis set aside his prepared homily at the Mass held near the Tacloban airport and spoke spontaneously in Spanish. He was also unable to read the statement he had prepared for the meeting at the Cathedral. What happens to the two prepared statements?
While “the Pope has not pronounced” them, Lombardi said, the fact remains that these were “written and reviewed by the Pope.” He emphasized: “You can use them as public texts of the Pope.”
7. What did the Pope think of it all?
The turmoil over the shifting schedule, the plight of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who travelled fair just to see the Pope, the sight of thousands more who lined the streets in the heavy rain—all these made an impact on the Pope, Tagle said. At one point, he recalled, Francis told him, “This visit is really for me. This is for me. I am learning.”
“Wow,” Tagle said. “That’s how to be a pastor.”
The visibly tired cardinal confessed to being “emotionally tired” during the Tacloban trip, ” but my eyes were fixed on him.” He added: “What I am really curious about is how he will be affected by our people and their suffering.”