Leyte euphoric as they wait for arrival of ‘Jesus Christ’s representative’
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines – It’s as if Jesus Christ himself is coming over.
Catholic Church officials and the faithful here had this to say and more when asked to describe in words their euphoria over the arrival on Saturday of Pope Francis.
Archbishop John Du, of the Archdiocese of Palo, said Francis “is not coming just as the leader of the Catholic Church but as a representative of our Lord.”
“It is as if no less than Jesus Christ is coming to us,” said Du. “This is really a big, big, big blessing for all of us here in Tacloban and Palo,” he said.
That the papal visit is the biggest event to take place in the archdiocese’s jurisdiction is evident in the faces of Church officials and the faithful and the words they utter to describe how they feel.
The Pope is to arrive around 9:30 a.m. at the Daniel Z. Romualdez (DZR) Airport.
According to Du, the Pope’s visit, the first in Eastern Visayas, is the best “reward” of the region thrown to its knees by Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the most powerful storm to ever hit land.
In the city alone, thousands died and hundreds disappeared and are now presumed dead.
The celebration for the papal visit would mask the grief that many city residents still feel about the loss of loved ones, homes and nearly everything they owned.
A group of dancers will perform for the Pope when he arrives although the performance is expected to last less than 20 minutes.
At least 150 well-wishers, students who live in villages in San Jose District, the part of Tacloban hardest hit by Yolanda, will be on hand for the Pope.
San Jose was turned into a wasteland by Yolanda, killing 2,200 people in the district alone.
“We have sacrificed so much when Yolanda hit us,” said Archbishop Du.
“But his coming here to the Archdiocese of Palo, here in Tacloban and Palo could be the best reward for us. He is the representative of Jesus Christ,” Du said.
He said the Pope’s visit would bring one important message to the people who were devastated by Yolanda: “God did not leave us during those times of suffering.”
He urged all the Catholic faithful to come out of their houses and give the Pope a rousing welcome as a form of expressing their gratitude.
“We are to receive a blessing, a very big blessing with his visit,” the archbishop said.
Marisol Fumar felt like crying because she used to travel abroad just to see the head of the Catholic Church. Now, Francis is coming to the people instead.
“Ours is just a very small place and could hardly be noticed in the maps,” said Fumar.
“Who are we to be given such attention by a Pope? But he will do it because we are all his children,” she said.
“It’s like Jesus Christ coming to us and reminding us that He loves us, He cares for us,” Fumar, 42, said.
She went to Israel in 2000 where she saw Pope, now saint, John Paul II who was visiting the Holy Land at that time. She saw Pope Benedict VXI in Spain and Australia.
For Nilda Sumalla, the visit of Pope Francis is a gift she will “forever cherish.”
“I will say my prayer to God through him to express our gratitude for being saved from Yolanda’s wrath,” the 39-year-old mother of seven children said.
She also said Pope Francis’ visit would coincide with the birthday of her young daughter, Janika, on Jan. 17.
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