Francis writes Palo Archbishop thanking people for their ‘witness of faith, endurance’ in trials
POPE WON’T FORGET
I will never forget this…”
Touched by the resilience of Filipinos affected by supertyphoon Yolanda, Pope Francis wrote to the Archdiocese of Palo days after his visit to Leyte province last Jan. 17.
In a letter to Palo Archbishop John Du, the Pope expressed gratitude for the warm welcome in Tacloban City and Palo, as he repeated his apology for cutting short his trip to the island by four hours due to bad weather.
“Returning to Rome, I wish to convey with these words my profound gratitude for your hospitality in the Archdiocese of Palo. May the Lord repay you abundantly for your goodness. I thank you too, wholeheartedly, for the witness of faith and endurance which your people showed me in the midst of their trials. I will never forget this—may the Lord never permit me to—and I will keep them in my prayers,” read Pope Francis’ letter dated January 21.
“I was deeply saddened that the weather warning forced us to anticipate our departure by four hours; this prevented a more relaxed visit with your people and in the Cathedral later that afternoon. I ask your forgiveness for any impatience on my part at that time.”
“I thank you for your pastoral example of strength and generosity in the srevice of the Church in Palo. May the Lord reward you greatly. I also ask you, please, to pray for me and to ask those entrusted to your care to do the same. May the Lord bless you, and the Blessed Virgin protect you always.”
The letter signed by Pope France was received by the archdiocese on Monday but Archbishop Du read it only yesterday morning, said Fr. Chris Arthur Militante, information and social communications officer of the Palo Archdiocese.
“The moment we heard about it, we, the clergy of Palo, were so happy. We’re glad to hear from the Holy Father,” Militante told CDN over the phone yesterday.
He said Du will respond to the Holy Father’s letter in the coming days.
Militante said they are hoping Pope Francis will return to Palo, since his visit lover two weeks ago was shortened due to typhoon “Amang.”
“We’re praying that, God willing, Pope Francis will return to the country and to Palo soon. We really don’t know if that is possible. We all leave it to Archbishop Du (whether or not he will invite the Holy Father to come again),” he said.
Pope Francis went to Tacloban City last January 17 amid a gloomy weather caused by typhoon Amang.
Wearing the same thin yellow raincoat as 120,000 pilgrims who waited for him in the rain, the pope presided over Mass at the apron of the Daniel Z. Romualdez International Airport amid strong wind and rain.
He was able to complete his itinerary with shorter stops. He met for 15-minutes over lunch with 30 calamity survivors at the Archbishop’s Residence, blessed the Pope Francis Center for the Poor, addressed the clergy of Palo in the Palo Metroploitan Cathedral, as well as blessed the mass grave of Yolanda victims and the Pope Francis Garden.
Instead of staying till 5 p.m., the Pope’s plane had to depart Tacloban at 1 p.m. to avoid the landfall of typhoon Amang at 3 p.m.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who accompanied him, said it was the Pontiff’s first time to celebrate Mass in a typhoon and to do it wearing a raincoat.
Fr. Militante said it was all worth it.
“In human perspective, there may be questions like ‘Why was his visit too short?’ But in general, we’re not disappointed. very moment he spent with us was joyful and fulfilling.
Militante said the Archdiocese of Palo plans to set up a museum that will feature several items used by the Holy Father.
They will preserve the uncleaned utensils (spoon, fork, and goblet) used by Pope Francis during his lunch with calamity survivors; the yellow raincoat, his skull cap, ciborium, chalice, litrugical linens, the papal chair, and the simple wooden lectern used during the Mass.
Pope Francis wore three yellow raincoats during his visit to the Archdiocese of Palo but only one was preserved. The other two were torn when he alighted from the popemobile.
As a remembrance, the Palo archbishop gave him an 18-inch image of the Immaculate Conception carved out of wooden debris from the Palo Cathedral which collapsed at the height of super typhoon on Nov. 8, 2013.
Renowned Pampanga sculptor Willy Layug who was commissioned for the piece used 400-year-old yakal wood which used to be part of the beam. The image of Mary wears a Filipiniana dress.
Pope Francis in turn gave as a gift to the Archdiocese of Palo a mosaic image of the “Madonna del Populo” or Mother of the People which he himself blessed. The mosaic is now venerated at the altar of the Palo Cathedral.
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