Friday, January 16, 2015

Earnest thoughts on the Pope’s Arrival

(This article originally appeared in Blog Watch of the Philippine Online Chronicles today, January 16, 2015. Check out the article in: Earnest thoughts on the Pope’s Arrival)


My family and I live in Mindanao. The only way we could see Pope Francis was through the live coverage on television of the Pope’s arrival and other activities. My husband and I were in front of the set as soon as the Sri Lankan plane wheeled into Villamor Airbase. We did so after we heard the bell of our nearby church peal to signal the coming of the pope. It felt like we were waiting for a relative coming from abroad. I had my phone camera ready to shoot away as if I was right there at the airport.

And I did just that: took photos of the television coverage.



I felt an excitement I thought I’d never feel anymore. I felt a fluttering of butterflies in my stomach as if I will see the Pope face to face. I felt a nostalgic realization that I am still a Catholic by heart after all.

It was incredible how the crowd cheered as soon as they saw the plane land and taxi into the spot where the President of the Philippines, Benigno Simeon Aquino III and party were waiting. A glance by the Pope from one of the plane’s windows sent the crowd roaring with cheers even more. One cannot help but be carried away by such show of warm welcome even if we were just watching on tv.



The arrival of Pope Francis on Philippine soil is the fourth visit of a Catholic Pontiff. I was in UST as a student during the first visit of then Pope now Saint John Paul II. I cannot forget the euphoria brought about by such a visit. I just realized that it was a time to be cherished because that Pope eventually became a Saint. I think for those who braved the crowds to have a glimpse of Pope Francis 34 years later, there is some kind of hope at the back of their minds that perhaps one day, this Pope will also become a saint and they could tell their children and grandchildren stories of how they saw a saint.



As I watched the Pope’s hand kissed by the President and the members of his cabinet, I momentarily forgot my awe and thought naughtily I hope against hope that those people will come to their senses and be transformed into upright individuals with mercy and compassion in their service of the Filipino people. I held my breath as Vice President Jejomar Binay kissed the hand of the Pope and chatted a bit. Was he telling the Pope he’s welcome to his hacienda in Sto. Rosario, Batangas? When Sec. Mar Roxas kissed the Pope’s hand did he also tell him he has done a good job in Yolanda-stricken Leyte which the Pope will visit? I thought the Pope wasn’t so warm in greeting Sec. Butch Abad and I wonder why. Sec. Leila De Lima earnestly kissed the hand of the Pope and almost genuflected. Was she asking his blessing and prayer for what she will do to Janet Napoles and the crooks of National Bilibid Prison?



Some bishops were on deck to welcome the Pope but I noticed there were no priests around. Perhaps the authorities did not want a repeat of the attack on Pope Paul VI when he came to visit in 1970. I almost shed a tear or two when the Pope tightly and warmly hugged Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as if they’re long-lost brothers.

I thought PNoy was so blessed to be the President to welcome a Pope into the country as he nears the end of his term. His pious mother, the late President Cory Aquino, was not as blessed because the previous papal visits were in the years before and after her term as president. I hope this rare visit and encounter with Pope Francis will spark a sense of urgency for Pnoy to do the right thing for the Philippines. May certain “holiness” get rubbed off on him and those government officials so they can turn the country into a better one in the days and months to come.



It’s amazing how the people waited for hours just to catch a split-second glimpse of the Pope. Some even came from far-flung provinces and spent their time and treasure just to be part of that crowd. For some, a wave of the Pope’s hand or even a glance was already like a blessing for them.

This made me think. Would the people be like this if the one visiting were Jesus Christ instead of his Vicar?

The crowd reminded me of the crowds during the time of Jesus who followed him everywhere to listen to him preach and heal the people. I remember the miracle of healing for a woman who has bled for 12 years and hoped to be healed if she can just touch even the edge of the cloak of Jesus. A guy in a wheelchair said he was simply happy to see the Pope even momentarily. I’m sure, he, too, hoped to be healed even by that simple glance.


What does the Pope symbolize? I think he is the personification of the desire of the people to have a concrete and tangible representation of the God they believe in. He gives hope that their prayers will have answers. He gives hope beyond the despair and depression they feel. He gives hope that their sufferings will be alleviated. He gives light to a country beset by the darkness of natural and man-made disasters. People hope that he will shed light to the darkness brought about by graft and corruption, poverty, terrorism and crimes. He is a welcome oasis for those in emotional, psychological and most of all spiritual drought. People need someone to hold on to in these troubled times and they look up to Pope Francis to be that.

Pope Francis himself admonished us to look unto Jesus more and less on him. It is true that we must worship in spirit and in truth but perhaps the Pope will serve as an inspiration and a guide for us to deepen our faith in a God that we cannot see. I hope people can see beyond the Pope and see Jesus instead.

In our daily lives we can heed his call: “Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

Welcome to Pinas, Santo Papa Francisco!

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