Pope Francis's Pilgrimage to the Philippines
Pope Francis' address at the Meeting with the Diplomatic Corps
Rizal Ceremonial Hall of the Malacañang Presidential Palace, Manila - Friday 16th January 2015
- in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish
"Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank you, Mr President, for your kind welcome and for your words of greeting in the name of the authorities and people of the Philippines, and the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps. I am most grateful for your invitation to visit the Philippines. My visit is above all pastoral. It comes as the Church in this country is preparing to celebrate the fifth centenary of the first proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on these shores. The Christian message has had an immense influence on Filipino culture. It is my hope that this important anniversary will point to its continuing fruitfulness and its potential to inspire a society worthy of the goodness, dignity and aspirations of the Filipino people.
In a particular way, this visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda. Together with many people throughout the world, I have admired the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster, and so many others. Those virtues, rooted not least in the hope and solidarity instilled by Christian faith, gave rise to an outpouring of goodness and generosity, especially on the part of so many of the young. In that moment of national crisis, countless people came to the aid of their neighbors in need. At great sacrifice, they gave of their time and resources, creating networks of mutual help and working for the common good.
This example of solidarity in the work of rebuilding teaches us an important lesson. Like a family, every society draws on its deepest resources in order to face new challenges. Today the Philippines, together with many other countries in Asia, faces the challenge of building on solid foundations a modern society – a society respectful of authentic human values, protective of our God-given human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions. As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good. In this way they will help preserve the rich human and natural resources with which God has blessed this country. Thus will they be able to marshall the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.
Essential to the attainment of these national goals is the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity. The great biblical tradition enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the poor. It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities. Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart. The Bishops of the Philippines have asked that this year be set aside as the “Year of the Poor”. I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor. May it also inspire concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community.
A fundamental role in the renewal of society is played, of course, by the family and especially by young people. A highlight of my visit will be my meetings with families and with young people here in Manila. Families have an indispensable mission in society. It is in the family that children are trained in sound values, high ideals and genuine concern for others. But like all God’s gifts, the family can also be disfigured and destroyed. It needs our support. We know how difficult it is for our democracies today to preserve and defend such basic human values as respect for the inviolable dignity of each human person, respect for the rights of conscience and religious freedom, and respect for the inalienable right to life, beginning with that of the unborn and extending to that of the elderly and infirm. For this reason, families and local communities must be encouraged and assisted in their efforts to transmit to our young the values and the vision which can help bring about a culture of integrity – one which honors goodness, truthfulness, fidelity and solidarity as the firm foundation and the moral glue which holds society together.
Mr President, distinguished authorities, dear friends:
As I begin my visit to this country, I cannot fail to mention the Philippines’ important role in fostering understanding and cooperation among the countries of Asia. I would also mention the oft-neglected yet real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live. It is precisely in the light of the rich cultural and religious heritage of which your country is proud that I leave you with a challenge and a word of prayerful encouragement. May the deepest spiritual values of the Filipino people continue to find expression in your efforts to provide your fellow citizens with an integral human development. In this way, each person will be able to fulfill his or her potential, and thus contribute wisely and well to the future of this country. I am confident that the praiseworthy efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation between the followers of the different religions will prove fruitful in the pursuit of this noble goal. In a particular way, I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.
Upon all of you, and upon all the men, women and children of this beloved nation, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings."
Pope Francis' homily at Holy Mass with Bishops, Priests & Religious
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Manila - Friday 16th January 2015
- in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish
"“Do you love me?” [the people: “Yes!”] Thank you, but I was reading the word of Jesus! Said the Lord: “Do you love me?… Tend my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17). Jesus’ words to Peter in today’s Gospel are the first words I speak to you, dear brother bishops and priests, men and women religious, and young seminarians. These words remind us of something essential. All pastoral ministry is born of love. All pastoral ministry is born of love! All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love. Like Saint Therese, in the variety of our vocations, each of us is called, in some way, to be love in the heart of the Church.
I greet all of you with great affection. And I ask you to bring my affection to all your elderly and infirm brothers and sisters, and to all those who cannot join us today. As the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization, we feel gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations. They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country, but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good. Today you carry on that work of love. Like them, you are called to build bridges, to pasture Christ’s flock, and to prepare fresh paths for the Gospel in Asia at the dawn of a new age.
“The love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14). In today’s first reading Saint Paul tells us that the love we are called to proclaim is a reconciling love, flowing from the heart of the crucified Savior. We are called to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20). Ours is a ministry of reconciliation. We proclaim the Good News of God’s infinite love, mercy and compassion. We proclaim the joy of the Gospel. For the Gospel is the promise of God’s grace, which alone can bring wholeness and healing to our broken world. It can inspire the building of a truly just and redeemed social order.
To be an ambassador for Christ means above all to invite everyone to a renewed personal encounter with the Lord Jesus (Evangelii Gaudium, 3). Our personal encounter with Him. This invitation must be at the core of your commemoration of the evangelization of the Philippines. But the Gospel is also a summons to conversion, to an examination of our consciences, as individuals and as a people. As the Bishops of the Philippines have rightly taught, the Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ. The Gospel calls individual Christians to live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good. But it also calls Christian communities to create “circles of integrity”, networks of solidarity which can expand to embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness.
The poor. The poor are at the center of the Gospel, are at heart of the Gospel, if we take away the poor from the Gospel we can’t understand the whole message of Jesus Christ. As ambassadors for Christ, we, bishops, priests and religious, ought to be the first to welcome his reconciling grace into our hearts. Saint Paul makes clear what this means. It means rejecting worldly perspectives and seeing all things anew in the light of Christ. It means being the first to examine our consciences, to acknowledge our failings and sins, and to embrace the path of constant conversion, every day conversion. How can we proclaim the newness and liberating power of the Cross to others, if we ourselves refuse to allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of this world, our “spiritual worldliness” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 93)?
For us priests and consecrated persons, conversion to the newness of the Gospel entails a daily encounter with the Lord in prayer. The saints teach us that this is the source of all apostolic zeal! For religious, living the newness of the Gospel also means finding ever anew in community life and community apostolates the incentive for an ever closer union with the Lord in perfect charity. For all of us, it means living lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, whose entire life was focused on doing the will of the Father and serving others. The great danger to this, of course, is a certain materialism which can creep into our lives and compromise the witness we offer. Only by becoming poor ourselves, by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters. We will see things in a new light and thus respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality.
Here I would like to say a special word to the young priests, religious and seminarians among us. I ask you to share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers. Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent, yet continue to see the Church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope. Be present to those who, living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, are broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets. Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family. As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.
Filipino culture has, in fact, been shaped by the imagination of faith. Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary; their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary! This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential. It is the way in which your people has inculturated the Gospel and continues to embrace its message (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 122). In your efforts to prepare for the fifth centenary, build on this solid foundation.
Christ died for all so that, having died in him, we might live no longer for ourselves but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5:15). Dear brother bishops, priests and religious: I ask Mary, Mother of the Church, to obtain for all of you an outpouring of zeal, so that you may spend yourselves in selfless service to our brothers and sisters. In this way, may the reconciling love of Christ penetrate ever more fully into the fabric of Filipino society and, through you, to the farthest reaches of the world. Amen."
Pope Francis' words during his meeting with Families
Mall of Asia Arena, Manila - Friday 16th January 2015
- in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish
"Dear Families, Dear Friends in Christ,
I am grateful for your presence here this evening and for the witness of your love for Jesus and his Church. I thank Bishop Reyes, Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission on Family and Life, for his words of welcome on your behalf. And, in a special way, I thank those who have presented testimonies – thank you! – and who have shared their life of faith with us. The Church in the Philippines is blessed by the apostolate of numerous family movements and I thank them for their witness!
The Scriptures seldom speak of Saint Joseph, but when they do, we often find him resting, as an angel reveals God’s will to him in his dreams. In the Gospel passage we have just heard, we find Joseph resting not once, but twice. This evening I would like to rest in the Lord with all of you. I need to rest in the Lord with families, and to remember my own family: my father, my mother, my grandfather, my grandmother… Today I am resting with you, and together with you I would like to reflect on the gift of the family.
First, however, let me say something about dreams. But my English is so poor! If you allow me, I will ask Monsignor Miles to translate and I will speak in Spanish.
I am very fond of dreams in families. For nine months every mother and father dream about their baby. Am I right? [Yes!] They dream about what kind of child he or she will be... You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies. So I ask you each evening, when you make your examination of conscience, to also ask yourselves this question: Today did I dream about my children’s future? Today did I dream about the love of my husband, my wife? Did I dream about my parents and grandparents who have gone before me? Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream!
How many difficulties in married life are resolved when we leave room for dreaming, when we stop a moment to think of our spouse, and we dream about the goodness present in the good things all around us. So it is very important to reclaim love by what we do each day. Do not ever stop being newlyweds!
Joseph’s rest revealed God’s will to him. In this moment of rest in the Lord, as we pause from our many daily obligations and activities, God is also speaking to us. He speaks to us in the reading we have just heard, in our prayer and witness, and in the quiet of our hearts. Let us reflect on what the Lord is saying to us, especially in this evening’s Gospel. There are three aspects of this passage which I would ask you to consider: First, resting in the Lord. Second, rising with Jesus and Mary. Third, being a prophetic voice.
Resting in the Lord. Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us. Joseph was chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. As Christians, you too are called, like Joseph, to make a home for Jesus. To make a home for Jesus! You make a home for him in your hearts, your families, your parishes and your communities.
To hear and accept God’s call, to make a home for Jesus, you must be able to rest in the Lord. You must make time each day to rest in the Lord, to pray. To pray is to rest in the Lord. But you may say to me: Holy Father, I know that; I want to pray, but there is so much work to do! I must care for my children; I have chores in the home; I am too tired even to sleep well. I know. This may be true, but if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us. And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little.
Resting in prayer is especially important for families. It is in the family that we first learn how to pray. Don’t forget: the family that prays together stays together! This is important. There we come to know God, to grow into men and women of faith, to see ourselves as members of God’s greater family, the Church. In the family we learn how to love, to forgive, to be generous and open, not closed and selfish. We learn to move beyond our own needs, to encounter others and share our lives with them. That is why it is so important to pray as a family! So important! That is why families are so important in God’s plan for the Church! To rest in the Lord is to pray. To pray together as a family.
I would also like to tell you something very personal. I have great love for Saint Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of Saint Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath Saint Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him: pray for this problem!
Next, rising with Jesus and Mary. Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act (cf. Rom 13:11). In our families, we have to get up and act! Faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it. This is very important! We have to be deeply engaged with the world, but with the power of prayer. Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.
Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us. Like Saint Joseph. The gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph so that he could care for it. Each of you, each of us – for I too am part of a family – is charged with caring for God’s plan. The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth. So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm.
Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family. They are not born of dreams, of prayers, of closeness to God or the mission which God gave us; they come from without, and for that reason I am saying that they are forms of colonization. Let’s not lose the freedom of the mission which God has given us, the mission of the family. Just as our peoples, at a certain moment of their history, were mature enough to say “no” to all forms of political colonization, so too in our families we need to be very wise, very shrewd, very strong, in order to say “no” to all attempts at an ideological colonization of our families. We need to ask Saint Joseph, the friend of the angel, to send us the inspiration to know when we can say “yes” and when we have to say “no”.
The pressures on family life today are many. Here in the Philippines, countless families are still suffering from the effects of natural disasters. The economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households. While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality. These are forms of ideological colonization. The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.
I think of Blessed Paul VI. At a time when the problem of population growth was being raised, he had the courage to defend openness to life in families. He knew the difficulties that are there in every family, and so in his Encyclical he was very merciful towards particular cases, and he asked confessors to be very merciful and understanding in dealing with particular cases. But he also had a broader vision: he looked at the peoples of the earth and he saw this threat of families being destroyed for lack of children. Paul VI was courageous; he was a good pastor and he warned his flock of the wolves who were coming. From his place in heaven, may he bless this evening!
Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats! The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf Familiaris Consortio, 85). The future passes through the family. So protect your families! Protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them! Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death. What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation! So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you.
Finally, the Gospel we have heard reminds us of our Christian duty to be prophetic voices in the midst of our communities. Joseph listened to the angel of the Lord and responded to God’s call to care for Jesus and Mary. In this way he played his part in God’s plan, and became a blessing not only for the Holy Family, but a blessing for all of humanity. With Mary, Joseph served as a model for the boy Jesus as he grew in wisdom, age and grace (cf. Lk 2:52). When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world. Families can become a blessing for all of humanity! God’s love becomes present and active by the way we love and by the good works that we do. We extend Christ’s kingdom in this world. And in doing this, we prove faithful to the prophetic mission which we have received in baptism.
During this year which your bishops have set aside as the Year of the Poor, I would ask you, as families, to be especially mindful of our call to be missionary disciples of Jesus. This means being ready to go beyond your homes and to care for our brothers and sisters who are most in need. I ask you especially to show concern for those who do not have a family of their own, in particular those who are elderly and children without parents. Never let them feel isolated, alone and abandoned, but help them to know that God has not forgotten them. Today I was very moved when, after Mass, I visited a home for children without families. How many people work in the Church to make that home a family! This is what it means, in a prophetic sense, to build a family.
You may be poor yourselves in material ways, but you have an abundance of gifts to offer when you offer Christ and the community of his Church. Do not hide your faith, do not hide Jesus, but carry him into the world and offer the witness of your family life!
Dear friends in Christ, know that I pray for you always! I pray for families! I do! I pray that the Lord may continue to deepen your love for him, and that this love may manifest itself in your love for one another and for the Church. Do not forget Jesus who sleeps! Do not forget Saint Joseph who sleeps! Jesus slept with the protection of Joseph. Do not forget: families find their rest in prayer. Don not forget to pray for families. Pray often and take the fruits of your prayer into the world, that all may know Jesus Christ and his merciful love. Please pray also for me, for I truly need your prayers and will depend on them always! Thank you very much!"
Pope Francis' homily at Mass in Tacloban
Tacloban International Airport - Saturday 17th January 2015
- in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish
Impromptu homily of the Holy Father
"In the first reading, we heard that we have a great priest capable of sympathizing with out weakness, who in every respect has been tempted as we are… (cf. Heb 4:15). Jesus is like us. Jesus lived as we do.
He is like us in everything. In everything but sin, for he was not a sinner. But to be even more like us, he took upon himself our sins. He became sin! This is what Paul tells us, and it was something that he knew well. Jesus goes before us always; when we experience any kind of cross, he was already there before us.
If today all of us are gathered here, fourteen months after the passage of Typhoon Yolanda, it is because we are certain that we will not be disappointed in our faith, for Jesus has gone before us. In his passion he took upon himself all of our sorrows, and… Let me tell you something personal – when I witnessed his disaster from Rome, I felt that I had to be here. That is when I decided to come here. I wanted to come to be with you. Maybe you will tell me that I came a little late; that is true, but here I am!
I am here to tell you that Jesus is Lord; that Jesus does not disappoint. “Father”, one of you may tell me, “he disappointed me because I lost my house, I lost my family, I lost everything I had, I am sick”. What you say is true and I respect your feelings, but I see him there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not disappoint us. He was consecrated Lord on that throne, and there he experienced all the disasters we experience. Jesus is Lord! And he is Lord from the cross, from there he reigned. That is why, as we heard in the first reading, he can understand us: he became like us in every way. So we have a Lord who is able to weep with us, who can be at our side through life’s most difficult moments.
So many of you have lost everything. I do not know what to tell you. But surely he knows what to tell you! So many of you have lost members of your family. I can only be silent; I accompany you silently, with my heart…
Many of you looked to Christ and asked: Why, Lord? To each of you the Lord responds from his heart. I have no other words to say to you. Let us look to Christ: he is the Lord, and he understands us, for he experienced all the troubles we experience.
With him, beneath the cross, is his Mother. We are like that child who stands down there, who, in times of sorrow and pain, times when we understand nothing, times when we want to rebel, can only reach out and cling to her skirts and say to her: “Mother!” Like a little child who is frightened and says: “Mother”. Perhaps that is the only word which can express all the feelings we have in those dark moments: Mother!
Let us be still for a moment and look to the Lord. He can understand us, for he experienced all these things. And let us look to our Mother, and like that little child, let us reach out, cling to her skirts and say to her in our hearts: “Mother”. Let us make this prayer in silence; let everyone say it whatever way he or she feels…
We are not alone; we have a Mother; we have Jesus, our older brother. We are not alone. And we also have many brothers and sisters who, when the disaster struck, came to our assistance. We too feel more like brothers and sisters whenever we help one another, whenever we help each other.
This is all that I feel I have to say to you. Forgive me if I have no other words. But be sure that Jesus does not disappoint us; be sure that the love and tenderness of our Mother does not disappoint us. Clinging to her as sons and daughters with the strength which Jesus our brother gives us, let us now move forward. As brothers and sisters, let us take up our journey. Thank you!"
"We have just celebrated the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
Jesus has gone before us on this journey and he is with us whenever we gather to pray and celebrate.
Thank you, Lord, for being with us here today. Thank you, Lord, for sharing our sorrows. Thank you, Lord, for giving us hope. Thank you, Lord, for your great mercy. Thank you, Lord, because you wanted to be like one of us. Thank you, Lord, because you keep ever close to us, even when we carry our crosses. Thank you, Lord, for giving us hope. Lord, may no one rob us of hope! Thank you, Lord, because in the darkest moment of your own life, on the cross, you thought of us and you left us a mother, your mother. Thank you Lord for not leaving us orphans!"
Prepared text of the Holy Father's homily
What words of consolation we have just heard! Once again, we have been told that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior, our high priest who brings us mercy, grace and help in all our needs (cf. Heb 4:14-16). He heals our wounds, he forgives our sins, and he calls us, as he did Saint Matthew (cf. Mk 2:14), to be his disciples. Let us praise him for his love, his mercy and his compassion. Let us praise our great God!
I thank the Lord Jesus that we can be together this morning. I have come to be with you, in this city which was ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda fourteen months ago. I bring to you the love of a father, the prayers of the entire Church, the promise that you are not forgotten as you continue to rebuild. Here, the strongest storm ever recorded on earth was overcome by the strongest force in the universe: God’s love. We are here this morning to bear witness to that love, to its power to transform death and destruction into life and community. Christ’s resurrection, which we celebrate at this Mass, is our hope and a reality which we experience even now. We know that the resurrection comes only after the cross, the cross which you have borne with faith, dignity and God-given strength.
We come together above all to pray for those who died, those who are still missing and those who were injured. We lift up to God the souls of the dead, our mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, family, friends and neighbors. We can be confident that, in coming into the presence of God, they have encountered mercy and peace (cf. Heb 4:16). There remains much sadness because of their absence. For you who knew and loved them – and love them still – the pain of losing them is real. But let us look with the eyes of faith to the future. Our sadness is a seed which will one day bear fruit in the joy which our Lord has promised to those who trust in his words: “Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted” (cf. Mt 5:4).
We have also come together this morning to give thanks to God for his help in time of need. God has been your strength in these very difficult months. There has been great loss of life, suffering, and destruction. Yet we are still able to gather and to thank him. We know that he cares for us, that in Jesus his Son, we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with us (cf. Heb 4:15), who suffers with us. God’s com-passion, his suffering with us, gives eternal meaning and value to our struggles. Your desire to thank him for every grace and blessing, even when you have lost so much, is not only a triumph of the resilience and strength of the Filipino people; it is also a sign of God’s goodness, his closeness, his tenderness, his saving power.
We also give thanks to Almighty God for so much that has been done to help, to rebuild, to assist in these months of unprecedented need. I think in the first place of those who welcomed and housed the great number of displaced families, elderly, and youth. How hard it is to flee one’s home and livelihood! We thank those who have taken care of the homeless, the orphaned and the destitute. Priests, and men and women religious, gave as much as they could. To those of you who housed and fed people seeking safety, in churches, convents, rectories, and who continue to assist those still struggling, I thank you. You are a credit to the Church. You are the pride of your nation. I personally thank each one of you. For whatever you did for the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters, you did for him (cf. Mt 25:41).
At this Mass we wish also to thank God for the good men and women who served as rescue and relief workers. We thank him for the many people around the world who generously gave of their time, money and goods. Countries, organizations and individuals across the globe put the needy first; it is an example that should be followed. I ask government leaders, international agencies, benefactors and people of goodwill not to give up. There is much that remains to be done. Though the headlines have changed, the needs continue.
Today’s first reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, urges us to hold fast in our confession, to persevere in our faith, to draw near with confidence to the throne of God’s grace (cf. Heb 4:16). These words have a special resonance in this place. Amid great suffering you never ceased to confess the victory of the cross, the triumph of God’s love. You have seen the power of that love revealed in the generosity of so many people and in so many small miracles of goodness. But you have also seen, in the profiteering, the looting and the failed responses to this great human drama, so many tragic signs of the evil from which Christ came to save us. Let us pray that this, too, will lead us to greater trust in the power of God’s grace to overcome sin and selfishness. Let us pray in particular that it will make everyone more sensitive to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need. Let us pray that it will lead to a rejection of all forms of injustice and corruption which, by stealing from the poor, poison the very roots of society.
Dear brothers and sisters, throughout this ordeal you have felt the grace of God in a special way through the presence and loving care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. She is our Mother. May she help you to persevere in faith and hope, and to reach out to all in need. And with Saints Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod and all the saints, may she continue to implore God’s mercy and loving compassion for this country, and for all the beloved Filipino people. Amen.
Pope Francis' words at his meeting with priests, religious, seminarians & families of survivors
Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Palo - Saturday 17th January 2015
- in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I greet all of you with great affection in the Lord. I am happy that we are able to meet in this Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This house of prayer, along with many others, has been repaired thanks to the remarkable generosity of many people. It stands as an eloquent sign of the immense effort of rebuilding which you and your neighbors have undertaken in the wake of the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda. It is also a concrete reminder to all of us that, even amid disaster and suffering, our God is constantly at work, making all things new.
Many of you have suffered greatly, not only from the destruction caused by the storm, but from the loss of family members and friends. Today let us commend to God’s mercy all those who have died, and invoke his consolation and peace upon all who still grieve. May we remember in a particular way those among us whose pain makes it hard to see the way forward. At the same time, let us thank the Lord for all those who have labored in these months to clear away the rubble, to visit the sick and dying, to comfort the grieving and to bury the dead. Their goodness, and the generous aid which came from so many people throughout the world, are a real sign that God never abandons us!
Here, in a special way, I would like to thank the many priests and religious who responded with such overwhelming generosity to the desperate needs of the people of the areas hardest hit. By your presence and your charity, you bore witness to the beauty and truth of the Gospel. You made the Church present as a source of hope, healing and mercy. Together with so many of your neighbors, you also demonstrated the deep faith and the resilience of the Filipino people. The many stories of goodness and self-sacrifice which emerged from these dark days need to be remembered and passed down for future generations.
A few moments ago, I blessed the new Center for the Poor, which stands as another sign of the Church’s care and concern for our brothers and sisters in need. How many they are! And how much our Lord loves them! Today, from this place which has known such profound suffering and human need, I ask that even more be done for the poor. Above all, I ask that the poor throughout this country be treated fairly – that their dignity be respected, that political and economic policies be just and inclusive, that opportunities for employment and education be developed, and that obstacles to the delivery of social services be removed. Our treatment of the poor is the criterion on which each of us will be judged (cf. Mt 25:40, 45). I ask all of you, and all responsible for the good of society, to renew your commitment to social justice and the betterment of the poor, both here and in the Philippines as a whole.
Finally, I would like to say a word of sincere thanks to the young people present, including the seminarians and young religious. Many of you showed heroic generosity in the aftermath of the typhoon. I hope that you will always realize that true happiness comes from helping others, giving ourselves to them in self-sacrifice, mercy and compassion. In this way you will be a powerful force for the renewal of society, not only in the work of restoring buildings but more importantly, in building up God’s kingdom of holiness, justice and peace in your native land.
Dear priests and religious, dear families and friends, in this Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Lord let us ask that our lives continue to be sustained and transfigured by the power of his resurrection. I commend all of you to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church. May she obtain for you, and for all the beloved people of these lands, the Lord’s blessings of comfort, joy and peace. God bless you all!"