ON THE feast day of the Child Jesus, Pope Francis was asked: “Why do children have to suffer?”
The question came from two former street children from Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation during the Pope’s “Encounter with the Youth” at the University of Santo Tomas, on the penultimate day of his historic apostolic journey to the Philippines.
“The heart of your question has no reply. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question,” Pope Francis said, after 14-year-old Jun Chura’s testimony on children’s sufferings.
Chura was joined by Glyzelle Palomar, who ended her testimony abruptly and in tears.
The Pope lauded Palomar for representing girls, and noted that she was the only girl among those who gave testimonies. Men should listen more to women, he said, as women can see things from a different angle.
“She (Palomar) is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. She couldn’t put it into words but expressed it with tears,” the Pope said.
Around 24,000 people, some of whom fell in line outside UST gates the evening before the event, endured the long wait and braved the rains to listen to and see the Pope. It was the fourth papal visit to UST, after Blessed Paul VI in 1970 and St. John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.
The almost two-hour encounter with the youth highlighted testimonies from four young people who represented the poor, college students, and relief volunteers.
Leandro Santos II, a UST law student, talked about how technological advances were a distraction to the youth.
Answering a question posed by Santos, “How can we love truly” amid distractions, Pope Francis said mind, heart, and hand should work harmoniously to be able to profess love truly.
“Your information comes down to your heart and you put it into practice. Harmoniously. What you think, you feel and you do. Feel what you think and feel what you do. Do what you think and what you feel,” Pope Francis said before thousands of youth representatives.
Pope Francis said real love could be given only if one allowed Jesus to “surprise” him.
“Real love is about loving and letting yourself be loved. That is why it is so difficult to come to the perfect love of God. Love surprises because it opens a dialogue of loving and being loved. God awaits us to surprise us,” Pope Francis said.
‘Become a beggar’
Pope Francis praised Rikki Macolor, an electronics engineering alumnus, for being able to extend help to the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda through his invention, the portable solar night light.
But he asked Macolor, and every young Filipino people, to learn how to receive with humility and to be evangelized by the poor. “You know how to give and yet you have never learned how to receive. You still lack one thing. Become a beggar. This is what you still lack. Learn how to beg,” the Pope said.
Meeting with religious leaders
Pope Francis arrived in UST at around 9:30 in the morning, fifteen minutes earlier than scheduled. The Pope’s Volkswagen left the Apostolic Nunciature at 9:15 in the morning.
He was welcomed by UST Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. and Fr. Gerard Timoner III, O.P., vice chancellor and prior provincial of the Filipino Dominicans.
The Pope signed the UST guest book and was given his own UST ID card as part of the administration. He even had his own ID number: 16112015-001
Before the encounter with the youth, Pope Francis met religious leaders at the Arch of the Centuries, including former UST Graduate School dean Lilian Sison who heads the Religions for Peace movement. The brief meeting included the exchanging of tokens that represented different religious denominations.
At the youth encounter, Pope Francis was also seen accepting a framed photograph and a copy of the Varsitarian’s papal visit edition.
After the brief meeting, the Pope held a short motorcade from Benavides Park to the UST Open Field. The Pope wore a yellow plastic raincoat to shield him from rain as his popemobile left the campus via España Street.
The UST field was occupied by young people representing the Archdiocesan Commission on Youth, Episcopal Commission on Youth, the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines, and participants of the Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization. The public was allowed to see the Pontiff from designated areas in the University. Angeli Mae S. Cantillana