Pope ends record-setting Asia tour


Pope Francis boards the plane during a departure ceremony at Villamor Airbase in Manila, on January 19, 2015

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Masses of cheering
believers in the Philippines turned out to bid farewell to Pope Francis
on Monday, a fitting end to a week in Asia that saw him draw record
crowds and campaign relentlessly for the poor.

The pontiff visited
Sri Lanka as well as the Philippines on his second trip to Asia in five
months, seeking to promote the Catholic Church in one of its most
important growth regions.

More than one million people gathered
along his motorcade route in the Philippine capital of Manila on Monday
morning for a final glimpse of Francis, the city’s planning agency
chief, Francis Tolentino, told AFP.

78-year-old pontiff showed no signs of fatigue from a gruelling week on
the road, smiling and waving to the crowds from an open-air
“popemobile” on the way to the airport.

President Benigno Aquino
then led a red-carpet farewell on the tarmac, as children sang and
danced, before the pope gave a final wave to the Philippines and boarded
his plane to return home.

Sunday saw one of the highlights of
his Asian journey, with six million people turning out in Manila as he
celebrated mass — a world record for a papal gathering.

Philippines is famed as the Catholic Church’s bastion in Asia, with 80
percent of the former Spanish colony’s 100 million people following the
But even the pope was
stunned at the size of the crowd, which surpassed the previous world
record of five million set during a mass by John Paul II at the same
venue in 1995.
“I cannot
fathom the faith of the simple people,” Francis said, according to the
archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who acted as the
pontiff’s chaperone during his five days in the Philippines.

his stay in the Philippines — where a quarter of the population lives
on 60 US cents a day or less — the pope spoke out against the forces
that entrench poverty.

In a
speech at the presidential palace, the leader of the Catholic Church
lectured the nation’s elite, calling on political leaders to show
integrity and do something to end the nation’s “scandalous social

– Compassion –

He again implored people to do
more to eradicate poverty, after an emotional encounter in Manila with a
12-year-old girl who asked why God would allow children to become

He said superficial compassion for the poor shown by many in the world, which amounts to just giving alms, was not enough.
Christ had that kind of compassion, he would have just walked by,
greeted three people, given them something and moved on,” he said.

pope said the main reason for visiting the Philippines was to meet
survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm ever recorded on
land which hit the country in November 2013, leaving more than 7,350
people dead or missing.

He flew on Saturday morning from Manila to
Leyte island, ground zero for the typhoon, and celebrated a deeply
emotional mass with 200,000 survivors.

“Some of you have lost part
of your families. All I can do is keep silent. And I walk with you all
with my silent heart,” he said.

Francis had planned to spend a
full day in communities where homes were flattened by monster winds and
tsunami-like ocean surges, but was forced to return at lunchtime to
Manila to avoid another tropical storm.

Still, he was deeply moved
by his shortened visit to the typhoon areas and felt privileged to have
made the trip, Cardinal Tagle told reporters.

Shortly after the pope left, Tagle said the pontiff’s message during the trip was clear.
centrality of love for the poor. The centrality of appreciating
children who are helpless. How do we face the inequalities,” Tagle said.
pope began his Asian tour with two days in Sri Lanka, where he
canonised the country’s first saint in front of another record crowd.
said a million people in the majority Buddhist nation turned out for
the event, making it the biggest public celebration ever for the capital
of Colombo.

– Yahoo News

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