Pope Francis recently visited the Philippines on a visit which attracted huge crowds. Millions of people turned out to catch a glimpse of him.
America Magazine quoted the pontiff as saying:
[quote ]The gestures [of the Filipinos] moved me. They are not protocol gestures, they are good gestures, felt gestures, gestures of the heart. Some almost make one weep. There’s everything there: faith, love, the family, delusion, the future.[/quote]
He went on to say that he was touched by the faith and sincerity of the people who came to see him and to see their faith in God so strongly exhibited. The final event of his visit, a Mass in Manila, drew a record-breaking crowd of 6-7 million people. It is the largest recorded papal visit and one of the largest gatherings of people for a religious event.
Pope John Paul II visited Manila in 1995 and drew a crowd of 5 million, another record-setting event. I was there for his visit and though I was very young, what I remember is not being scared of the huge crowd but of being overwhelmed by the faith and camaraderie of the people. I was moved by the feeling of unity with the whole crowd as we gathered together to worship God and to celebrate our faith.
The Filipino people are united by many things and one of the greatest of these things is our faith. Our faith in God is part of our culture, from praying over meals to going to church with the family. Growing up, my mother always reminded me to not only pray to God for my needs but to thank God for my blessings, a teaching that is common through Filipino families.
The large crowds that gather at religious events such as papal visits are more than a mark of the piety of Filipinos. It is an indicator of how strong and united we can be as a people. Although I was not present for Pope Francis’ visit, I am moved by the display of faith shown by my people. Pope Francis described Filipinos as people who know “how to suffer” and are “capable of rising up”.
And we will. Together, our people will rise up and overcome suffering. The Philippines is already well on its way to healing the political and economic turmoil of the past decades. The Filipino people are strong and resilient and will prevail through faith and unity.