Storm cuts short Pope Francis’ visit to Leyte PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 18 January 2015 14:29

Pope Francis’ visit to Leyte in central Philippines on Saturday was intended to comfort survivors of the deadly storm Haiyan (Yolanda), but ironically he had to cut his visit short because of another storm whipping up nasty winds that threatened to make flying dangerous.

“Pilots have insisted that we have to leave by 1 p.m. due to bad weather. I have to go early,” the 78-year-old Pope told the crowd packed at a cathedral in Palo, one of the towns devastated by typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

The pontiff arrived at the Archbishop Residence in Tacloban City around 11:40 a.m., but went down around 12:10 p.m., skipping the meal and briefly blessed the Pope Francis Center for the Poor before heading to Palo Cathedral for a meeting with the religious around 12:15 p.m., according to the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Instead of of the scheduled lunch, he had a brief meeting with Haiyan 30 survivors and Bohol earthquake inside the building.

Pope Francis arrived and left the Archbishop Residence and was greeted by a crowd chilling from strong winds and rain showers brought about by storm tropical storm Amang (international name: Mekkhala) .

“I feel like I’m contended now that I saw Pope Francis even just for few seconds. I believe this is the only chance in my life to see the highest Roman Catholic leader,” Samuel Enage, 59, a former Leyte postman told PNA.

Dripping wet, he walked alone for one hour under the rain to get to the entrance of Archbishop Residence where Pope Francis had a brief meeting with selected poor survivors and blessed the home for elderly and orphans named after him.

Pilgrims from other Philippines provinces shouted “I love you Pope Francis” when the popemobile briefly stopped at the gate around 11:40 a.m. for the ponchos-wearing Pope Francis to wave the crowd.

“Now that the Pope is in our village, we are confident that we will be blessed with fast recovery from recent calamities,” said Nimfa Pabona, 44, a resident near the Archbishop Residence.

Several of her neighbors are inside the residence complex to render a dance and greet the 78-year-old pontiffFrancis will spend less time in Leyte Saturday due to inclement weather caused by Tropical Storm Amang.

The Pope flew back to Manila at 1 p.m. —four hours earlier than the scheduled 5 p.m. departure from Leyte.

“Several scheduled events were cancelled so that he (Pope Francis) can return to Manila early. This is not because of a security threat. This is an adjustment to the weather,” Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told GMA News network/

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told media Amang is expected to make landfall over Masbate province at 2 a.m. Sunday.

Leyte is one of the areas placed under storm signals due to Amang that had already stranded at least 6,483 passengers Saturday morning, the Philippine Coast Guard told local media.

In his homily during  a holy mass at Palo cathedral, Pope Francis in yellow raincoat. comforted the crowd of catholic faithful some of whom were weeping, assuring them that Jesus Christ shares their suffering.

The Pope had planned to deliver his homily in English but, apparently wanting to speak from the heart, decided at the last minute to say it in Spanish while a translator spoke in English, according to MindaNews.

“So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say,” he said. “Some of you lost families. Al I can do is keep silence. And I walk with you all in my silent heart,” Pope Francis said.

“This is what comes to my heart and forgive me if I have no other words to express this. But please know, Jesus never lets you down,” he said.

He said that Jesus “understands us because he underwent all trials that we that you have experienced,” he added.

Pope Francis told the Haiyan survivors that like a frightened child holding on to a mother, they should hold on to Mother Mary’s hand whenever they feel anguish because of what the typhoon did to them.