THE HOLY Father’s visit to the Philippines was a “miracle in itself,” said Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle in a press briefing following the departure of the Pontiff for Rome on Monday.
“This event is really an act of communion and solidarity. It is a miracle in itself,” he said. “All of us are overwhelmed right now with thanksgiving to God.”
Tagle also thanked everyone who made the papal visit to the Philippines a success, citing Church and government authorities, security and communications personnel, the media, and other sectors of society. “We were able to show the world that it is possible—communication, cooperation, collaboration—these are not just ideas, they can be put in to action.”
He also thanked Filipinos from all walks of life who looked forward to having an encounter with the Pope. “We would like to thank the ordinary Filipino, those who lined up on the streets, those who woke up at two in the morning but never got to the quadrant of Luneta but still stayed up to this day,” Tagle said.
Now that the five-day visit of Pope Francis to the country has come to an end, Tagle encouraged everyone to take time reflecting upon the meaning of this “deep” event. “I recommend that we spend time relishing the event. There is so much to reflect on, so much to pray over, [and] so much to learn,” Tagle said.
“We need to allow the effect [of Pope Francis’ visit] to deepen so let us spend time reflecting on it—the spiritual message and also the missionary message, which is the centrality of loving the poor [and] appreciating children who are helpless," he added.
On behalf of Pope Francis, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, also thanked everyone who made the Holy Father’s visit possible.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma expressed "profound gratitude" to Church officials for giving the government the opportunity to help in organizing the visit.
Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, chairman of the papal visit committee on information and media relations, said Pope Francis made a lot of surprises during his visit to the country, which showed Filipinos that “he is one with us.”
“You have witnessed how he did not read the prepared homilies, what happened in Tacloban, his spontaneity in embracing the young children, the first time he wore a raincoat,” Vergara said.
The Pope left the Apostolic Nunciature at nine in the morning for his flight back to Rome, and rode the popemobile for his final motorcade on his way to Villamor Air Base.
During the departure ceremonies, 400 children from different facilities of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Manila and young people from Tuloy Kabataan Foundation performed interpretative dances of the songs: “Tell the Wolrd of His Love,” “We Are All God's Children,” “Only Selfless Love,” and “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”
The Pope, together with Vatican security and Vatican-accredited media, boarded the plane at 9:50 a.m and took off at around 10:20 a.m.
The Pontiff was accompanied by President Benigno Aquino III, Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop Pinto, and several Church and government officials on the red carpet to the plane.
It is still unsure if Pope Francis will return to the Philippines next January for the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Cebu, but he was already sent an invitation, said Tagle.
“Nagpadala na sa Santo Papa, noon pa, ang Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines ng invitation para pumunta siya. Ngayon, dahil nga pumunta na siya [this year], tignan natin,” Tagle said. “It is the decision of the Holy Father. The event is there but the Holy Father will have to decide.” Lord Bien G. Lelay