By Erika Bianca Lasay, Green FM field reporter and news manager
Pope Francis held his first Eucharistic mass in the Philippines at the historic Manila Cathedral of the Immaculate Concepcion, Friday, January 16, 2015.
As early as 7:30 a.m., Plaza de Roma in front of Manila Cathedral was already filled with mass attendees, including missionaries from different parts of the Philippines. Security forces, together with the volunteers of Philippine Red Cross, were already deployed in the streets. Accredited media personnel stayed at their designated platform.
While waiting for the pontiff, Argentinian missionaries outside the cathedral sang hymns and praises for Pope Francis; other religious groups read their liturgical booklets and prayed the Holy Rosary; several young boys dressed as Vatican Swiss Guards rehearsed their welcome presentation for Pope’s visit; and thousands of Filipinos took selfies of themselves with the Manila Cathedral in the background.
An hour before the mass, the crowd outside the cathedral were already fanning themselves furiously because of the sunny weather. However despite the scorching heat, the crowd was energized when Vatican-accredited media showed up in front of the cathedral. Several minutes later, the papal convoy finally appeared. The public took out their gadgets and raised their hands in the air to capture the moment. Argentinian missionaries cheered and shouted, “Viva Il Papa, Viva Francis!” until the Pope himself appeared, waving and smiling at the crowd.
Pope Francis delivered a traditional Latin mass at Manila Cathedral. The Argentinian Pope began his homily with a line from the Gospel “Do you love me?” which the crowd answered in affirmative and he responded, “Then, thank you very much!”
From the light start of the sermon of the Pope, it turned serious when he called on the Philippine government to work on the corruption problem. He pointed out the plight of the poor who suffer inequalities in Asia’s predominantly Catholic country. He also warned about the “powerful forces” which he said “threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation.”
During the Holy Mass, medical teams pulled out some participants from the crowd and onto stretchers, because of dizziness. Boththe people inside the cathedral and the pilgrims in the streets received Holy Communion.
Before the mass ended, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle welcomed and thanked the Pope for gracing the newly-reconstructed cathedral saying “You bring fire not to destroy but to purify. You bring an earthquake not to shatter but to awaken.”
The crowd applauded Tagle’s message as the cardinal received a brotherly and warm embrace from Pope Francis.