Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 18th 2015 Contents A32
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt January 18, 2015
Pope Francis kisses a wooden crucifix as he visits the Cathedral of Palo in Tacloban, Philippines, yesterday.
Francis traveled to the far eastern Philippines to comfort survivors of devastating Typhoon Haiyan in 2013
yesterday, but cut his own trip short because of another approaching storm. AP PHOTO
TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES---Pope Fran-
cis braved an approaching tropical
storm Saturday to travel to the far
eastern Philippines to comfort sur-
vivors of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan.
He was so emotionally undone by
their loss that he barely found the
words to offer solace, and then had
to cut the trip short because of the
Before he left the typhoon-wracked
city of Tacloban, though, a soaking
wet Francis brought many in the crowd
to tears as he ached at their suffering
and recounted how in the days after
the Nov 3, 2013, storm he decided that
he simply had to come in person to
offer his comfort.
"I wanted to come to be with you,"
he told a rain-soaked crowd during
Mass on a muddy airport field. "It s
a bit late, I have to say, but I am here."
Haiyan slammed the areas around
Tacloban with a storm surge two sto-
ries high and some of the strongest
winds ever measured in a tropical
cyclone: 235 kilometers (147 miles) per
hour, as clocked by US satellites. It
leveled entire villages, left more than
7,300 people dead or missing, and dis-
placed more than 4 million people in
one of the country s poorest regions.
"Pope Francis cannot give us houses
and jobs, but he can send our prayers
to God," said Tacloban resident Ernesto
Hengzon, 62. "I m praying for good
health and for my children, too. I am
old and sickly. I m praying that God
will stop these big storms. We cannot
take any more of it. We have barely
recovered. Many people are still down
there." Francis joined Haiyan s victims
in solidarity, donning the same cheap,
plastic yellow rain poncho over his
vestments that Mass-goers were given
to guard them against the latest storm
to batter their island.
It didn t offer much protection.
Francis insisted on traveling around
Tacloban in his exposed, open-sided
popemobile, and he and his aides were
so drenched by the time they boarded
the earlier-than-expected flight back
to Manila that trip organizers begged
the flight crew to cut the air condi-
tioning lest they catch cold.
The pope cut his visit to Tacloban
short because of Tropical Storm
Mekkhala, which made landfall on
nearby Samar Island two hours after
he left with winds of 100-130 kilo-
meters (60-80 miles) per hour, the
weather bureau said. The same weath-
er system threatened to drown out
Francis closing Mass on Sunday in
Manila that had been expected to draw
Wind gusts in Tacloban were so
strong that they knocked one of the
large loudspeakers mounted for the
Mass off its platform, hitting and
killing a church volunteer, local media
reports said. Police confirmed the 27-
year-old woman s death, but didn t
say how the loudspeaker fell.
Francis was informed of the death
and asked his aides to investigate how
he might share in the family s grief,
said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev.
While Francis jam-packed, eight-
hour Tacloban itinerary was cut in
half, he refused to cut anything out.
So after an abbreviated, emotional
Mass he went to have a 15-minute
lunch with 30 survivors of the typhoon
and hear firsthand of their losses.
"I ll never forget the face of the Holy
Father listening to each one," Cardinal
Luis Antonio Tagle told reporters after-
ward, breaking down in tears himself.
Learning of lost parents, husbands,
sons and daughters, Francis was almost
paralyzed by their suffering, he said.
"You could see the Holy Father just
shaking his head, shaking his head
and at some moments saying, Oh,
oh! He was suffering," Tagle said.
"When I asked him, Do you want
to say a few words? he said: What
can we say? ... I thought he would
say the central message of his homily,
but before these 30 persons he himself
was reduced to silence: The commun-
ion and solidarity that happens in
During Mass, a clearly moved Francis
ditched his prepared texts and spoke
off the cuff in his native Spanish ---
something he does when he wants to
speak from the heart. And there again,
he was rendered practically speechless.
"So many of you have lost every-
thing," Francis told them. "I don t
know what to say to you, but the Lord
does know what to say to you. Some
of you lost part of your families. All
I can do is keep silent. And I walk
with you all with my silent heart."
At the same time, though, there
were some light moments. Francis
clearly relished getting close to ordinary
people and seemed to even get a thrill
out of the adventure of escaping a
storm s wrath just in the nick of time.
For a man confined to the walled-in
Vatican City in a part of the world
where typhoons are unknown, Satur-
day s storm was a first. Francis also
insisted that a cathedral full of priests
and nuns sing "Happy Birthday" to
his No 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who
turned 60 yesterday.
And Imelda Marcos showed up at
Mass, wearing the same yellow poncho
as the ordinary folk.
The Tacloban native, widow of
Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos
and known for her extravagant shop-
ping sprees during her husband s 20-
year rule, said Filipinos would surely
take heed of Francis pro-poor advo-
cacy. "They re a very loving people,"
she told The Associated Press.
A police official estimated the crowd
at 150,000 before the pope s arrival
and said tens of thousands more were
lined up outside the airport area. Lom-
bardi put the total figure at 300,000.
Francis was informed Friday night
that his plane s pilots were concerned
about the weather and wanted to leave
Tacloban earlier than expected, Lom-
bardi said. Francis readily agreed to
cut the visit short, but said cancelling
it was out of the question. (AP)
Pope braves approaching
storm to comfort
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