SIX TO seven million people attended the Concluding Mass of Pope Francis, surpassing the record four to five million set by the 1995 World Youth Day celebrations led by Pope St. John Paul II.

“This is the number has been given by [the] assistant [of] the President to help the Vatican protocol. The official number that has been given to us is between six and seven. We are not able to number all these people obviously,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said on Sunday, citing figures released by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Lombardi said the Luneta Mass was likely the biggest gathering in the history of Popes. “We have seen so many people. We believe that it is possible. [This] is the largest event of the history of the popes,” Lombardi told international and local media at the Manila Diamond Hotel on Roxas Boulevard.

Pope Francis, who has a man-of-the-people reputation and charisma, attracts millions of devotees during his Masses inside and outside the Vatican, like the double canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII and the Mass for Korean martyrs in Seoul, where a million people showed up.

Tacloban volunteer’s death ‘meaningful’

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle revealed that when Pope Francis reached the Apostolic Nunciature Sunday, the Supreme Pontiff had a “private” encounter with the father of 27-year-old Kristel Mae Padasas, the Catholic Relief Services volunteer who died after the Pope’s Mass in stormy Tacloban Saturday. A scaffolding near the stage collapsed on Pasadas.

“What struck the Holy Father was the statement of the father of Kristel. [He] felt devasted when the news reached him. And he even ask God [that] ‘I have only one child, why was she taken away from me,’” Tagle said.

These were the father’s words, said Tagle: “I have accepted this. I rejoiced that she died serving other people. It is a meaningful.”

The next international religious gatherning in the Philippines will be next year, when Cebu hosts the International Eucharistic Congress. Tagle said the Pope was invited to attend. Jerome P. Villanueva


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