Manila, Philippines, Jan 17, 2015 / 06:10 am
On his return flight from the Philippine city of Tacloban to Manila, where he met with and shared in the suffering of typhoon survivors, Pope Francis was moved, and said the trip was really intended for him.
"When we had already boarded the plane I asked him 'How is it Your Holiness? Are you tired? Are you afraid because this is your first typhoon?' But he said, 'This visit is really for me. This is for me. I'm learning. This visit is for me,'" Cardinal Antonio Luis Tagle, archbishop of Manial, told journalists on Jan 17.
"That's how to be a pastor…It was an intense day and I feel tired, but my eyes were really fixed on him," the cardinal noted, saying that "What I am really curious about is how he will be affected by our people and the suffering that they conveyed to him."
Pope Francis traveled to the city of Tacloban, which has been ravaged by two typhoons in the past year, as part of his Jan. 15-19 visit to the Philippines. Scheduled to spend a full day in the city, the pontiff had to cut his visit short due to a new, inbound typhoon.
All of the Pope's scheduled events took place, but had been shortened due to the time constraints.
The cardinal, who spoke to journalists during a press briefing after the day's events, explained that the pontiff was particularly moved by the day's lunch with 30 typhoon survivors.
Although shortened to 30 minutes, the lunch was "an intimate encounter," the cardinal observed, noting how the survivors present had all lost loved ones, relatives, property and even parts of their bodies.
When the Pope entered, he went around and greeted each one personally, and afterward had the opportunity to hear a few brief words from each of them about their losses in the typhoons.
"I'll never forget the face of the Holy Father listening to each one," Cardinal Tagle said, visibly moved, when the people told the Pope that "'I lost my parents and a brother, I lost everything,' and one woman who said 'I lost my husband, I lost my son and I lost five daughters."
"You could see the Holy Father just shaking his head" and making audible groans as the people were speaking because "he was suffering," the cardinal noted.
He said that when he asked the Pope if he wanted to make some remarks to those gathered before they left, Pope Francis responded by saying "what can we say?" and remained silent.
"I thought he would repeat the central message of his homily, but before these 30 people he himself was reduced to silence," the cardinal observed, saying that this was the silence of someone present in front of the mystery of suffering.
When one of the survivors asked the Pope to pray for all of their departed loved ones, the pontiff responded by saying that he had offered Mass for all of those affected by the typhoon when he first heard about it two years ago.
Pope Francis then told them that tomorrow afternoon's Mass in Manila's Rizal Park will be offered for all of their deceased, and asked for their prayers.
The cardinal also recounted how the pontiff had shown his pastoral heart from the beginning of the trip by tossing aside his prepared homily during Mass, and speaking "from the heart."
He also shared his solidarity with the pilgrims gathered in the rain and intense wind for his morning Mass by choosing not to leave in a closed car, despite the increasingly bad weather, Cardinal Tagle recalled.
Donning a raincoat himself, the Pope said "I'm here to show solidarity, so if the people have waited in sun, and now the rain and wind, why not the pastor?"