Pope Francis’ arrival worth the 3 a.m. march for Sta. Ana parishioners
MANILA, Philippines—Having lost out the good spaces in the struggle to see Pope Saint John Paul II two decades ago, parishioners of the Our Lady of the Abandoned Church in Sta. Ana, Manila, decided they would be early birds when Pope Francis arrived on Thursday.
While most of Manila was sleeping, over a thousand parishioners and members of other religious and civic groups in the Sta. Ana district marched from their community along the banks of the Pasig River at 3 a.m. on Thursday, to Quirino Avenue in Malate, near the Apostolic Nunciature, where Pope Francis would stay during his visit.
It was a 16-kilometer march, and with a three-foot replica of the Our Lady of the Abandoned in tow, it was not an easy time for them.
But boy did their patience pay off.
Pope Francis, who rode the pope mobile from Villamor Airbase to the Apostolic Nunciature, arrived almost at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, after a speedy journey in which he stood and waved at the crowds along the way.
But merely seconds before he entered his residence here, the Argentinian pontiff caught a glimpse of the replica that the group brought.
What happened next left Boyet Magale, one of the group’s leaders, in awe.
“I caught it on video in my cellphone: Pope Francis was surprised to see the replica of the Our Lady of the Abandoned among the crowd,” said Boyet Magale, the group’s leader. “And as his pope mobile sped past our point, I captured him doing the sign of the cross. I couldn’t believe it at first so I had to watch it over and over. But it was real.”
It was a profound moment for Magale, who, together with other community leaders, pushed that they march to the Apostolic Nunciature before the crack of dawn to avoid losing out the best spots to other people.
“When Pope John Paul II came here in 1995, we pushed to go early, but we were beaten by another parish to the best spot, which is near the junction of Quirino and Taft Avenues,” Magale told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
While the elderly and the young also wanted to come, they were just asked to stay home and watch the pope’s arrival on TV, keeping in mind the long hours, heat and possibly rain they would have to endure.
To pass time, the group sang religious songs and recited the rosary, which added to the festive atmosphere in the area near the nunciature, as other parishes and groups did their own programs and cheers from time to time.
But not all went smoothly for the group, as five of their members had to receive first aid after they fainted. However, they were sufficiently energized by the time the pope drew near.
“In the end, all our sacrifices were worth it. I think Pope Francis was aware of how long everyone, not just us, waited for him, and even if he did not stop, he treated every one of us here with a warm smile and waving of his hands,” Magale said.
More importantly, Magale said that the pope’s gesture to the image of the Our Lady of the Abandoned that they had brought reminded him of Pope Francis’ humility.
“I was struck by how he had managed to see our image, and the sign of the cross he did after that,” he said. “For me, it was a humbling gesture. He’s already the pope, the vicar of Christ, but he took time to acknowledge Our Lady, and us, by extension.”
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