POPE Francis’ special inclination for persons with disabilities (PWDs) could also mean they have a special place in his events, like his visit to the Pontifical and Catholic University of Santo Tomas earlier today, Jan. 18.

Around 70 PWDs in wheelchairs with their respective chaperons were seated at the very foot of the UST Grandstand where Pope Francis conducted his meeting with the youth.

One of them was Bobby, inflicted with the genetic disorder Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease that involves loss of muscle tissues and touch sensations. He was brought in by his older brother Mark Arepentido.

Arepentido shared that they were only supposed to catch the Holy Father on his motorcade along España Boulevard, but upon finding out that Bobby could get a front row seat in Pope Francis’ youth encounter in UST, he decided to take the chance.

“Sana talaga ma-bless din yung kapatid ko, mahawakan siya ni Pope. Kasi hindi talaga namin ine-expect na makakapunta kami dito. Napakalapit namin. Ine-expect lang namin motorcade lang kaya masayang-masaya,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rufie Espanto, a beneficiary of UST’s organization for patients with psoriasis, was exactly located in front of the Pope’s altar, giving him a good view of the Pope.

Like Bobby and Mark, he did not expect to be one of the chosen people in their foundation to witness the Pope’s arrival in the University, even commenting that he is “over-blessed.”

“Isa lang naman yung message na hinihintay talaga ng tao, particularly ‘yung message ng Word of God, na talagang siya (Pope Francis) ‘yung pumunta dito para maging comforter nating mga Catholic, lalo na ‘yung mga namamatay na Catholic na hindi na nabubuhay ang [faith] nila,” Espanto said. “Invigorating, pampasigla sa Catholic faith ng mga youth at mga katulad naming may disabilities [‘yung mensahe niya.]”

Another portion of the open field was allocated for the deaf and the mute, just behind the PWDs, where volunteers translated the whole event into sign language. Gena Myrtle P. Terre


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