'We will always be grateful,' Filipino archbishop tells Pope Francis

Pope Francis embraces Archbishop Du CNA Pope Francis and Archbishop John Du embrace at a Mass in Tacloban Jan. 17. | CTV.

Although Tacloban was "ground zero" of the Typhoon Haiyan disaster that brought fear, suffering, and death, a Philippines bishop has told Pope Francis that the Christian faith and the papal visit have consoled the Filipino people.

"Your visit strengthens and consoles us; may your humble presence among the poor and among us who have suffered the tragedy of a Super Typhoon ever lead us to the restful waters of God's mercy and love," Archbishop John F. Du of Palo told Pope Francis at the close of a Jan. 17 Mass.

"We will always be grateful! For indeed, as the Psalmist says '…the Lord will not abandon His People nor will He forsake His inheritance.'" (Ps.94:14)

Tacloban is still recovering from one of the strongest storms ever recorded in history, Super Typhoon Haiyan. The 2013 storm had 195 mph winds and torrential rains. Water in some places reached 23 feet in depth. Over 6,000 people died as a result of the typhoon and many survivors today are still coping in the aftermath of the devastation.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass Saturday near the Tacloban airport on a windy, rainy day for hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom survived the brunt of the storm. Archbishop Du, whose archdiocese includes Tacloban, reflected on Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda.

The Archbishop of Palo said "we are on Yolanda ground zero here – where the storm surge caused so much destruction and a massive loss of life."

Archbishop Du described the Pope's presence as inspiration to praise God, "who, out of untold catastrophe has gifted us with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come as one with you in joyful thanksgiving."

The archbishop went on to express the country's deep appreciation for the Holy Father's presence, saying his gratitude could not be expressed with words.

"We are deeply filled with joy and consolation that you have celebrated this Eucharist with us – this great act of thanksgiving to God which is a constant source of strength and fount of hope in our Christian life," the archbishop noted, adding: "you have been with us all this time, and your coming here culminates the great outpouring of spiritual and material assistance from the Church for us."

Highlighting the Holy Father's compassion and loving concern, Archbishop Du described Pope Francis as a shepherd of the Lord's flock who has brought the Filipino people closer to God.

In his impromptu homily, the Pope told the faithful that when he saw the catastrophe of Typhoon Haiyan, he decided to go to the Philippines.

"I'd like to tell you something close to my heart: When I saw from Rome the catastrophe, I felt that I had to be here. Those very days, I decided to come here. I am here to be with you," Pope Francis stated, adding "a little bit late, I have to say. But I am here."

"I've come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. That Jesus never lets us down," he said.

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