Six million people join Papal Mass in the Philippines

By staff writers
January 19, 2015

Some six million people flocked to the Philippine capital Manila on Sunday 18 January to take part in a celebratory Mass led by Pope Francis.

The attendance was a record for the Catholic Church. In 1995, a little over four million turned out for Pope John Paul II.

People in the Philippines and other parts of Asia have been drifting away from the Church in recent years.

But the new Pope, with his human touch, concern for the poorest, determination to reform the hierarchy and much more warm-hearted approach to issues of faith and life, seems to have won a huge number of people -- including sceptics towards organised faith -- over.

Whether this will be translated into a deeper renewal of the prospects of the Catholic Church, rocked globally by abuse scandals and other problems locally and globally, is yet to be seen.

However, the atmosphere in the Philippines was extremely positive, attendees and reporters say.

The country has 78 million Catholic adherents, which means that one in thirteen came to see the Pope on the last full day of his visit.

Caroline Wyatt, the BBC's religious affairs correspondent, commented: "The atmosphere has been electrifying, despite the heavy rain. Pope Francis's visit has been seen here as a resounding success.

"There's been enormous enthusiasm for the Pope and the themes he's focused on - helping the poor, the importance of the family, and protecting the environment."

During the Mass, the Pope spoke of the terrible impact of Typhoon Haiyan, in which some 14.5 million people were impacted across six regions and 44 provinces.

Over one million people remain homeless, and NGOs say that there is a huge amount of recovery work still to be done.

Pope Francis declared: "So many of you in Tacloban have lost everything. I don't know what to say - but the Lord does… He underwent so many of the trials that you do."

Earlier on Sunday, the Pope met with young people on the campus of Santo Tomàs University in Manila.

Departing from his prepared text, the pontiff addressed the young people in Spanish.

"What is the most important subject you have to lean at university?" he asked. "What is most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love. This is the challenge that life offers you: to learn bow to love. Not just to accumulate information without knowing what to do with it. But through love, let that information bear fruit…

"To be wise use three languages: think well, feel well and do well. And to be wise allow yourselves to be surprised by the love of God. That will guarantee a good life."

He concluded his impromptu talk: "This is what I wish to tell you all today. Sorry if I haven’t read what I prepared for you, but there is a phrase that consoles me: that 'reality is superior to ideas'. The reality that you have is superior to the paper I have in front of me. Thank you very much. Pray for me!"

[Ekk/3]

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