Mabuhay, Papa Francis!

JUST BE - Bernadette Sembrano (The Philippine Star) - August 21, 2014 - 12:00am

“I don’t mind being a human red carpet for the arrival of Pope Francis — for him and his entourage!” This was my reaction when we broke the story on ANC’s Top Story about the Pope’s visit to the Philippines in January 2015. The Holy Father will come for an apostolic visit with the theme Mercy and Compassion

“I want to hug him,” I told Cynthia, my colleague in the newsroom.

“You don’t hug the Pope, you just kiss his hand,” she said.

“I will kiss his feet — I want to give him a power hug,” I told her.

“You also have to look poor, the Pope loves the poor,” Cynthia reminded me.

“And he loves children so I might as wear children’s clothes or dress up in a taong grasa costume,” I joked.

So I guess that makes me unqualified to see the Pope based on those two points alone — I am not materially poor and I’ve definitely gone past my age of innocence years ago!

Since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope in 2013, he has grown in the hearts of Catholics all over, re-igniting the faith and fervor in some dormant believers.

When I first saw him at the balcony of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, I wasn’t sure of what to make of him. My conclusion: The Pope is a simple man based on his white sutana (cassock) and the wooden crucifix hanging on his neck.

He chose the name Francis. I thought it was because of St. Francis of Xavier because of his Jesuit background, but apparently he took after St. Francis of Assisi — the man for the poor.

He breaks protocol and mingles with the common tao. He was candid when pressed by media on moral issues, but surprising everyone with his message of love, embracing everyone in the Church.

We all love Pope Francis.

When we heard about his intention to visit the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, I wasn’t surprised. However, seeing that becoming a reality was another thing.

Pope Francis sent us a message through Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle: “Tell them not be afraid to ask God ‘Why’? Just like small children begging for the attention of their parents. If we keep on asking ‘why’, then we may at least feel the loving gaze of our Father.”

“Why?” I’ve asked God many, many times that — during Sendong, Pablo, the Zamboanga siege or when I see a sick patient. “Why, God?” I asked after visiting areas affected by Typhoon Glenda.

I find the answers to my questions in the people I meet, the victims of calamities and tragedies. “Where do they get their strength to pick up the pieces?” I wonder. Each time I get the reply — God. No. 2 answer is family. 
In moments of adversity, God manifests his loving presence as if telling us “I am with you.” Maybe this is why the Pope loves the poor and the suffering so much. To love just like Christ has loved. 

When I was reflecting on the criterion to earn the gaze of Pope Francis in his visit to the Philippines — to be poor and suffering — I didn’t want to qualify anymore. Yolanda survivors lost not only their homes and possessions — they lost family. 

Will the Pope’s visit suffice and wipe away our woes? We can only hope, but we can draw inspiration from him. Like Pope Francis, we believers have to reach out to those in need and have compassion. We profess our faith by being instruments of God’s enduring love.

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