Pope Francis visits the Philippines

Philippino flagPhilippino flag

 The colors (blue, red, and yellow) of the Philippine flag represent the country and its people. It is in solidarity with the victims of recent calamities that the Pope is coming to the Philippines.

The innermost circle resembles a pearl, symbolizing the Philippines, known as the pearl of the orient seas. The white Cross symbolizes the Christian faith, and our fervent prayer that the center of our country be our Lord Jesus Christ. It serves as a reminder as well that more than a State Visit, the Pope comes to show and share the Lord’s mercy and compassion with the Filipino people.

The red circle symbolizes Mercy, one of the themes of the Papal visit. Red is the color of blood and recalls the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross for our salvation, a holy sacrifice that manifests and exemplifies Divine Mercy for sinful humanity.

The blue circle means Compassion, the other theme of the Papal visit. Blue is the color of divine presence – it is the color of the sky and the sea that surround our life, much like God’s presence, God’s compassionate love that permeates and sustains human existence.

The red and blue circles appear like arms embracing the yellow circle. These are the merciful and compassionate arms of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, embracing the Philippines, the pearl of the orient seas. The current Pope is well known for expressing his love and care for people by spontaneously hugging and kissing them. The red and blue circles or arms therefore symbolize the Pope’s Merciful and Compassionate Embrace, and by extension, Christ’s loving embrace. The Pope now comes to the Philippines to embrace us with his arms of love.

Finally the blue and red circles appear like ripples, or waves emanating from the inner circle, from the Cross. We pray that the Papal visit will indeed create ripples of compassion and mercy throughout the Filipino nation and beyond January 2015.


January 2015

Dear little sisters and friends,

We share with you how we lived the Papal visit knowing very well that words are not enough to capture everything. So each one is writing what has impressed her most.

From the time the Pope landed in our country until now, people are still talking about the “Francis effect”. I was very happy to hear from a Jesuit priest,a member of the Papal Visit Committee saying that while there is no doubt that Pope Francis visit had a huge impact on us, our people also had the “Pinoy (slang for Filipinos) effect” on Pope Francis. The Pope himself spoke about this during the press conference inside the plane on the way to Rome. He was very touched by images and gestures of faith and love he saw among the people and the people also were very moved by even his mere presence. While thousands lined up the streets where his Pope mobile was to pass to catch even a split-second glimpse of him, people who were watching the TV or the giant screens cheered every time he turned to look at the crowd. The same priest said the Pope received energy from us and vice versa.  

Seeing how people wept, others tried to find theological terms to explain why. But when children and handicapped people and simple people were asked why, they had almost the same answer: “Because it was like Jesus himself came and looked at me and blessed me, loved me” or “Because at last, I have met a saint.”  And that explains everything. The Pope’s visit was indeed God’s Visitation to our people.

People made big sacrifices – waking up very early, walking and waiting long hours, going without food and water and not going to the toilet for long hours, standing drenched in the rain – in exchange for a glimpse of the Pope. And the Pope saw and felt all that.  He, too, stood for hours on the pope mobile, waving his hands left and right, smiling always and listening, allowing himself to be moved, letting go of his prepared homily so he could speak from the heart. We have a Pope who knows the power of symbolic gestures and personal encounter. We may not remember his words no matter how it touched us but we will never forget his gestures and personal attention.  

I experienced the “Francis effect” and the “Pinoy effect” though I was not among those who lined up the streets. I left early to attend the Mass at the cathedral. Knowing I could not go inside because I had no ticket, I wanted simply to be among the crowd and feel with them and also to pray with the Holy Father. When I arrived, there were already a big number of people who came earlier than me. I sat on the ground beside a man who said he had already seen the Pope when he arrived but hoped to see him again and was planning to go to wherever he was going. His story is just one of the millions. I can’t help recalling the Gospel where people were following Jesus wherever he went, listened to Him and wanting to touch even a fringe of his cloak.

I did not see the Pope as I was on the wrong side, so with the crowd, I followed the Mass on the giant screen. Because the Eucharistic ministers could not penetrate the crowd I was not able to receive Holy Communion but I was experiencing communion in a deeper sense. And I felt nourished by it. And I know this was true for the others, too.

Upon the invitation of the Association of Major Superiors for the religious to be human barricades, we set out for the concluding Mass in Luneta. We were instructed to be there before 11am for the orientation. But lo and behold, millions of people were already positioned in different areas of the park. We had to squeeze ourselves into the crowd; we were barricaded instead. But happily we were led to a good place with the rest of the religious and seminarians which was not too far from the main altar. But half-foolish virgins that we were, we did not bring raincoats (unlike the other wiser religious who came ready with food and raincoats); we brought only plastic bags, that, of course were nothing compared to the continuous rain. So we were drenched like the rest of the millions. Another experience of communion but this time we could have the Holy Communion, too. When everything was over, you can imagine what an ordeal it was to go back home. We did not hear a word of complain from anyone! Yet again, we were in communion with all the others walking back home and seeing and talking to them in the jeepney, wet and exhausted like us, we felt energized.  

Cecilia Grace

I am very grateful that Pope Francis’ state visit and apostolic visit was peaceful and grace-filled. I was one with the crowd who walked long hours waiting for his pope mobile to pass by, to see, to greet him and to receive his fatherly blessing. I was also in Luneta with the 6 million Filipinos for his concluding Mass, soaked in the rain.

What do I learn from all these experiences? His visit means a lot for us Filipinos. He himself is the image of God’s mercy and compassion and he gives us hope. I was deeply moved by the faith of such a huge crowd waiting for long hours for his blessing, people from all walks of life. His messages are down-to-earth and straight from the heart. How he consoled the victims of Haiyan in Tacloban by leading them to Christ crucified who is one with us and to our mother. How he challenged the youth that reality is superior to ideas. His smile radiated the light of Christ resurrection while in solidarity with the pains and suffering of humanity. He came at the right time, the year of Consecrated Life and Year of the Poor as declared by CBCP. How he challenged us in concrete ways to go to the peripheries as he himself has shown us by his life and example. Pope Francis is indeed dear to every Filipino.

Binky

Each Pope has his own charism. Pope Francis’ gift to the Church and to the world: he embraced all young and old, the poor, the sick and the handicapped with special tenderness, showing that mercy and compassion are not only what he preaches but what he is deeply living. What a challenge if we want to follow his example. In fact he leads us back to the heart of the Gospel, the Heart of God.

Meg

Although I am in a foreign country, I felt so much one with the people to welcome the Pope. It was a great joy for me to see the Holy Father. I am touched by his great simplicity in meeting people, his loving touch, affectionate words, fatherly hugs and God’s blessings he was bestowing on the people, whether to those people waiting on the roadsides or to those who were in the organized venues.  His human, friendly and sometimes humorous words and gestures made me shed tears of joy.  It was quite striking to see him being attentive to each little thing.  Like Jesus, he humbled himself to be one us especially in Tacloban where it was raining and he put on a transparent rain coat like all the people and celebrated the Holy mass in the open air under the pouring rain.   He was consoling the suffering people who were victims of Yolanda Typhoon last year.  It was beyond my control of tears to see our leader, the Holy Father here.  It was as if Jesus himself was present.  I never got tired of following him on TV for 5 days; the more I watched, my desire to see him was increasing.

Sometimes I was feeling sorry for him to see him standing for a long time to give speeches or standing in his open mobile car going around the crowd waving/blessing with his hands. I was feeling compassionate towards him, wanted to help him by standing near to hold his hands, like the two persons in the OT holding Moses’ hands while he was interceding to God for his people. It was very clear that the Holy Father loves the people in fullness like Jesus.  

It was so touching to see him saying good bye and carrying his bag with one hand and climbing the stairs to the plane.  With tears the country bid him farewell. For me personally, I felt as if one of my family members visited me and it was hard to say “good bye”.

The Holy Father’s visit has left something in me which I will be cherishing and will be the source of inspiration. It was a grace filled time for the country and for me.  I thank God for this special event in my life.  

Divya

Basically his message to us was a call to be persons of deep communion with God and to be of service to our brothers and sisters especially in the peripheries,to meet the poor in the flesh. His “how” made the difference. He radiated the gospel Joy in his person, filled with love for the Lord and mercy and compassion for God’s people. He was so alive in meeting the families, the youth, and the street children. His enduring sympathy with suffering people, assuring them that God never lets us down…

We are so blessed indeed. It is a visitation of the Lord in the person of the Pope. Now let us pray this will have a lasting effect in all of us through the witness of life in building up God’s Kingdom.

Gones