POPE WATCH: Pope Francis heads home

AP News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2015 10:56 PM
POPE WATCH: Pope Francis heads home

Pope Francis headed home Monday from the Philippines after a weeklong trip that also took him to Sri Lanka. Here are some glimpses of his last two days:

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FLYING HOME

Francis left Manila about 10:15 a.m. on a Philippines Airlines jet, heading back to the Vatican after his second Asia tour since becoming pope.

He stopped at the top of the steps to the plane, turned to give one more wave to the crowd and then bowed before boarding.

A large contingent of former street children, wearing matching T-shirts, kept chanting "Pope Francis, we love you," and waving, long after the plane door was closed.

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FINAL MOTORCADE

Thousands of cheering people lined the streets of Manila one more time to try to see Francis as his motorcade traveled to Villamor Air Base for his flight.

Standing in the bed of a white converted pickup truck, the pope waved to the crowd as his vehicle moved fairly rapidly through the cleared streets on a sunny morning.

He is to leave after a brief departure ceremony at the air base.

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SOAKED BUT HAPPY

It was a wet day. And it was worth it.

A record 6 million people turned out for Pope Francis' outdoor Mass in Manila's Rizal Park on Sunday, including those who lined the streets for his motorcade to the site, a city official said. It was the culminating event of his weeklong trip to Asia.

"Our wait and getting soaked in the rain was all worth it because we saw him," said Ria de Jesus, 43, who left her home north of Manila with her daughter at 2 a.m. to get to the park at 4 a.m. "We have no regrets."

The pope won praise for the vehicle he used to travel to the Mass — a popemobile modeled on a "jeepney," an inexpensive public transport option widely used in the Philippines.

"He loves us in his heart, that's why he used that," said Joel Cuellar, a 42-year-old vendor from Bataan, a province about a four-hour drive north of Manila. "Because if he didn't, he could have used a limousine."

— By Teresa Cerojano and Yves Dam Van, AP journalists, Manila, Philippines.

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SANTO NINO FESTIVAL

Pope Francis celebrated his final Mass on his visit to the Philippines on the same day devotees celebrate the feast of the Child Jesus, or Santo Nino (Holy Child).

Many who had gathered for the Mass carried images of the Santo Nino in colorful garb, hoping they would be blessed by the pope.

Francis said the Santo Nino's message is "We are all God's children, members of God's family."

The biggest Santo Nino festival, which falls on the third Sunday of January, is held in Cebu, a city about 575 kilometers (350 miles) south of Manila where an image of the Child Jesus brought by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan was found. More than 450 years old, the image is the oldest Christian icon in the country.

Spain colonized the archipelago and imposed Catholicism.

Devotees believe the Santo Nino is miraculous and display replicas in various sizes and different garments in homes, cars, public vehicles and offices. Many hospitals and schools around the country are named after it.

— By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: twitter.com/seveto

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QUICKQUOTE:

"We squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets. We squander our money on gambling and drink. We turn in on ourselves. We forget to remain focused on the things that really matter."

— Pope Francis in his homily at the Rizal Park Mass.

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VOICES FROM THE CROWD (II)

"I'm really, really happy, never mind that I get wet until the ceremonies finish, as long as I'm here, I'll be present." — Genie Mutya, 35, resident of Valenzuela town.

"I feel very excited. It's very beautiful and meaningful for me. It's the first time for me to come here. And I do believe that all the people here, it's really the work of the Holy Spirit." — John Hai, 36, theologian from Myanmar.

— By Johnson Lai, AP videojournalist, Manila, Philippines

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POPE'S PERSONAL CONDOLENCES

Francis offered his personal condolences to the father of a young Catholic volunteer who was killed Saturday while helping organize his Mass in typhoon-hit Tacloban.

The Vatican said Francis met Sunday for about 20 minutes with the girl's father at the Vatican Embassy in Manila. Spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi described the meeting as moving. The father, Lombardi said, was overwhelmed by the loss but was "consoled thinking that she had helped prepare the meeting of the people with the pope."

Police said Kristel Padasas, a volunteer with Catholic Relief Services, died when scaffolding fell on her. Witnesses said a sudden gust of wind toppled the structure, which served as platform for a large loudspeaker during the Mass.

Francis opened his appearance at Manila's main Catholic university on Sunday with a moment of silence to pray for the girl.

— By Nicole Winfield, AP Writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: twitter.com/@nwinfield

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ANSWERS IN TEARS

A 12-year-old girl tearfully asked Pope Francis why God allowed suffering by children. Listening to her intently and visibly moved, Francis couldn't offer a direct reply.

Glyzelle Palomar, a former street child and one of four young people who spoke during his encounter with Filipino youth, told the pope that many children abandoned by their parents fall victim to drugs and prostitution.

"Why is God allowing something like this to happen, even to innocent children? And why are there so few who are helping us?" the girl said, breaking down in tears, unable to finish reading what she had prepared to say to the pope.

"Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question," Francis said. "There are some realities that you can only see through eyes that are cleansed by tears."

He said the marginalized, those who fall on the wayside and people who are "discarded" cry.

"But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don't know how to cry," the pope said.

— By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: twitter.com/seveto

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VOICES FROM THE CROWD

"I am not satisfied just seeing him on TV. This is a once in a lifetime chance to see him in the flesh, even from afar."

— Rosalinda Kho, 68, with her 44-year-old daughter.

"He doesn't want to be treated as someone special. Look at his vehicles, they are not bullet-proof, he wanted them to be open so that he can feel he is close to the people. How will you be able to protect your followers if you are not with them, if you are afraid to show yourself, to stand behind them or stand before them?"

— Rommel Monton, 28, a call center agent with his niece and 4-year-old daughter.

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QUICKQUOTE: 'WOMEN HAVE MUCH TO TELL US'

Francis drew applause with these comments to a student audience at the University of Santo Tomas:

"Women have much to tell us in today's society (applause). Sometimes we're too macho, and we don't leave enough room for women. Women are able to see things with different eyes than us (applause). Women are able to ask questions that men can't understand. ... When the next pope comes, please have more women and girls among your numbers."

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SAD NEWS, SOMBER POPE

Pope Francis opened his meeting with the Filipino youth on a somber note, reporting to thousands gathered at the centuries-old University of Santo Tomas the sad news that a female church volunteer had died during his visit to central Tacloban city on Saturday, and led prayers for the woman.

"She was 27 years old, young like yourselves," he said. "She was an only daughter."

He said the woman's mother works in Hong Kong and was returning home awaited by her father.

The woman helped organize the Mass in Tacloban. It was celebrated in a rain- and wind-swept field close to the Tacloban airport.

Police said Kristel Padasas, a volunteer with the Catholic Relief Services, died when scaffolding fell on her. Witnesses said a sudden gust of wind toppled the structure, which served as platform for a large loudspeaker.

Francis cut short his Tacloban visit because of an approaching storm that caused foul weather.

— By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: twitter.com/seveto