Inbound typhoon cuts short Pope Francis' visit to Leyte

Pope Francis announces departure CNA Pope Francis at the cathedral of the Philippines' Archdiocese of Palo Jan. 17.

Pope Francis regretfully announced his early departure from the Philippines island of Leyte, leading people in prayers for protection against an inbound typhoon.

"I apologize to you all," the Pope said Jan. 17 at Palo's Cathedral of Our Lord's Transfiguration. "I am truly saddened because I had something prepared especially for you."

He led the congregation in praying an Our Father and a Hail Mary before departing for Manila, where he may take part in unscheduled events.

The Pope had been scheduled to spend more time on Leyte after the Mass near the Tacloban airport. He fulfilled his scheduled appointment for lunch with 30 survivors of Typhoon Haiyan and also met with a fisherman and his family.

Pope Francis gave the whole family a blessing, papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists Jan. 17.

The Pope had been scheduled to bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor. Due to the accelerated schedule, he blessed the center from the Popemobile as he drove past en route to the airport.

The Pope was also scheduled to meet with priests, religious, seminarians and survivors of the disastrous 2013 Typhoon Haiyan. While he met with them briefly, he was not able to deliver his prepared remarks, due to his early departure.

Pope Francis gave a gift to the Palo cathedral: a mosaic of the Madonna del Popolo, the Madonna of the People. The Pope was also presented with a gift: a statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception created from the debris from the typhoon-damaged Palo cathedral.

At the cathedral, he encouraged the congregation to sing "Happy Birthday" to a cardinal.

The second grade typhoon has sustained winds of 80 mph, CNN reports. The Pope's schedule was moved up 45 minutes to avoid the storm.

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