Pope skips arrival speech
MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis skipped his arrival statement after landing at the Villamor Air Base late Thursday afternoon.
Church bells tolled across the country and hundreds of children danced and waved small Philippine and Vatican flags as the pontiff emerged from the plane and was welcomed by well-wishers led by President Benigno Aquino III.
A sudden gust of wind blew off his papal cap seconds after he appeared, and Francis grabbed futility for it and then smiled and descended the stairs.
The Holy Father, the leader of both the Catholic Church and Vatican, is in the Philippines for a pastoral and a state visit.
Pope John Paul II was the last pontiff who visited the country during the celebration of World Youth Day in 1995.
Aquino led the Philippine delegation in welcoming His Holiness.
He was joined by members of his Cabinet, a pair of orphans and more than 1,000 volunteers.
The two state leaders walked down the red carpet toward a dais where they led the singing of their respective national anthems. They strolled to the Kalayaan Lounge and proceeded to a motorcade on the way to the Apostolic Nunciature—the Pope’s official residence in the Philippines.
Pope Francis is scheduled to lead various events during his five-day visit here. On top of his itinerary is a trip to Tacloban, Leyte where he will meet with survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).
The government has declared national holidays during the Pope’s visit, which runs through Monday.
Pope Francis will meet on Friday with Aquino, who has waged a campaign against poverty, an issue close to the pope’s heart, but has clashed with Catholic leaders over a reproductive health bill that promoted use of artificial birth control. Congress, which is dominated by Aquino’s allies, passed the bill in 2012.
Meetings with Filipino families, Catholic Church leaders and the youth were also slated. With a report from Associated Press
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