Pontiff surprises (again), hugs street kids, old nuns
MANILA, Philippines—They would have been content catching a glimpse of Pope Francis on his popemobile on his way to Manila Cathedral but they got a hug and a kiss from him instead on Friday.
Some 260 children from the Tulay ng Kabataan (TNK) Foundation, an orphanage beside the cathedral in Intramuros, got the surprise of their lives when the Pope dropped by after a two-hour Mass for Filipino bishops, the clergy and the religious on the second day of his four-day apostolic visit to the Philippines.
The Argentine Pontiff, who has drawn the admiration of both believers and nonbelievers for his simplicity, also had a simple message for them—that they never forget they are loved by Jesus.
“These are very simple words but they are very meaningful because these street kids are like objects thrown into the garbage,” Fr. Matthieu Dauchez, executive director of the foundation, told reporters.
The French priest said he and the children were crying after the Pope’s brief visit, overwhelmed by his message and his gesture of love.
“When you tell to a child that you are loved by Christ, it’s very strong. But when you tell these to street children, it’s like telling them that your heart will be hurt again, maybe you are not loved by your parents, maybe you were rejected by your family but you know God is always with you,” he said.
Dauchez said the children had been told earlier that they would be waving at the Pontiff from the orphanage, a two-story facility on General Luna Street.
But a few minutes before the Mass in the cathedral ended, security officials informed him that the Pope was coming.
“Maybe he learned that there was a center here from (Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio) Cardinal Tagle, who knows very well and is very close to the foundation,” he said.
In a way, Dauchez had been expecting the visit.
The Pope had a penchant for unexpected gestures especially to the poor, the children and people with special needs. “I have been told that when the Pope sees the poor, expect anything. That’s what they saw in his visits in other countries,” he said.
“It was maybe 15 minutes but it felt like it was as fast as 10 seconds because we were full of emotions and it was a wonder we were able to see the Pope,” Dauchez said.
Adrian Atis, 10, was the first to greet Francis with a hug when the Pope entered the facility and led him to the children who were equally eager to meet him and give him a hug.
Atis also delivered a message in Filipino to the Pope. He said: “Beloved Holy Father, from the children of the streets, we welcome you. Your visit is meaningful because you represent Jesus to the poor. You give us hope. Thank you very much.”
After his message, the Pope kissed him, the boy recounted. “I was very happy when I hugged him because this is the only time that I was able to hug a Pope,” said Atis.
The Pontiff looked a bit tired when he entered the orphanage, but his face lit up when he saw the children eagerly waiting for him, said Dauchez.
“It was very meaningful because it means that the Pope is not only bringing hope to the children but he is also drawing hope from the children… and that he was also ready to receive the lessons from the poor,” he said.
Dauchez said the Pontiff really took time to be with the children, blessing and hugging as many as he could.
Pope Francis also pulled a surprise among those attending the Mass earlier at Manila Cathedral.
During the exchange of peace, the Pope came down from the altar to greet the wheelchair-bound elderly nuns, who were also astounded by the gesture.
“I was very, very happy. I felt I was in heaven,” said 87-year-old Sr. Isabela Fulache of the Religious of the Virgin Mary.
The nun said the Pope touched her cheeks after she greeted him, “Buenos Dias, Santo Padre!”
“Maybe it was not part of the Mass so we couldn’t converse although [it seemed] he wanted very much to speak in Spanish,” Fulache said in an interview. A priest from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines who attended the Mass said the Pope’s gesture was not part of the program.
In yet another spontaneous activity, Pope Francis met with 40 Jesuit priests at the Apostolic Nunciature, his home for the duration of his four-day apostolic visit to the Philippines, following his encounter with families at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“This evening, we have come late because the Pope is doing another thing, a meeting in the nunciature with 40 Jesuits,” announced Fr. Federico Lombardi at a press briefing last night.
Lombardi said the Pontiff always had the desire to meet with the Jesuits of the place he was visiting.
The Jesuits said: “We are 40 like the 40 elephants in Sri Lanka,” disclosed Lombardi, eliciting laughter from the members of the media.
One question that the Pope’s visitors raised during the meeting was what he thought about Filipinos.
This was the Pope’s reply: “I don’t know many Filipinos but I met them in particular in Rome more than Argentinians and I have an impression that they have a natural dignity more than other people.”
The profound spirituality and dignity could be rooted from the “profound evangelization that they have received,” said Lombardi, quoting the Pope.
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