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Pope Francis Celebrates Holy Mass at Manila's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Diane Montagna - published on 01/16/15

And learns two secrets to the resilience of the Filipino people

Pope Francis Friday began his first full day in Asia’s most Catholic country by celebrating Holy Mass with bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila.

The Philippines, whose 100 million population is 80% Catholic, was last visited by a Roman Pontiff two decades ago, with  Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1995.

Pope Francis was welcomed this morning to the nation’s cathedral by His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila. In his welcoming remarks, the Archbishop described the Manila cathedral — the first to be built in the Philippines — as an apt symbol of the Filipino people. 

“Fire destroyed the first cathedral. The succeeding five cathedrals were either partially or totally damaged by earthquakes, the most massive of which struck in 1863 burying in rubble the members of the cathedral chapter, the choir and lay faithful,” Cardinal Tagle explained. And the seventh cathedral, he said, was mercilessly bombed along with other edifices in the Walled City of Manila (Intramuros) during the battle of liberation in 1945.”

The Archbishop added: “This cathedral has been razed to the ground many times, but it refuses to vanish. It boldly rises from the ruins – just like the Filipino people. Yes, Holy Father, we bishops, priests and religious men and women have seen and lived the suffering and determination of our people. We are afflicted in every way possible, but we are not crushed. (2 Corinthians 4:8).”

Two major typhoons tore through the Philippines in recent years. In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed over 6,000 people when it ripped through the archipelago nation. And just one month ago, in December, the country was struck by Typhoon Hagupit, considered the worst tropical cyclone of 2014 leaving 18 people dead and over $100 million in damage.

But the Archbishop told Pope Francis that there are two secrets to the resilience of the Filipino people: Music and faith. 

“Our melodies make our spirits soar above the tragedies of life. Our faith makes us stand up again and again after deadly fires, earthquakes, typhoons and wars.”

As many of the Filippino poor now seek to rise from recent natural and human calamities, Cardinal Tagle thanked Pope Francis for his visit and said: “You bring fire, not to destroy but to purify. You bring an earthquake, not to shatter but to awaken. You bring weapons, not to kill but to assure. Indeed, you are Peter, the Rock upon which Jesus builds His Church (Matthew 16:18). You are Peter who comes to strengthen your brothers and sisters in faith (Luke 22:32). We welcome you, successor of Peter, to this blessed land of untiring hope, of infinite music and of joyful faith. With your visit, we know Jesus will renew and rebuild His Church in the Philippines. Mabuhay! [Welcome!]”

Here below we publish the full text of the Pope’s homily.

***

“Do you love me?” [the people: “Yes!”] Thank you, but I was reading the word of Jesus! Said the Lord: “Do you love me?… Tend my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17). Jesus’ words to Peter in today’s Gospel are the first words I speak to you, dear brother bishops and priests, men and women religious, and young seminarians. These words remind us of something essential. All pastoral ministry is born of love. All pastoral ministry is born of love! All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love. Like Saint Therese, in the variety of our vocations, each of us is called, in some way, to be love in the heart of the Church.

I greet all of you with great affection. And I ask you to bring my affection to all your elderly and infirm brothers and sisters, and to all those who cannot join us today. As the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization, we feel gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations. They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country, but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good. Today you carry on that work of love. Like them, you are called to build bridges, to pasture Christ’s flock, and to prepare fresh paths for the Gospel in Asia at the dawn of a new age.

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