17 January 2015

President Aquino presents Pope Francis with  ‘Mary, Undoer of Knots’ wood sculpture, papal commemorative coins
President Benigno S. Aquino III presented Pope Francis with a wooden sculpture of ‘Mary, Undoer of Knots’ and papal commemorative coins during their meeting in Malacañang Palace on Friday.

Pope Francis, on a five-day state and apostolic visit to the country, paid President Aquino a courtesy visit in Malacañang. The pontiff received full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, during a welcome ceremony at the Palace grounds.

During their tête-â-tête, President Aquino gifted Pope Francis with a sculpture of Mary, Undoer of Knots, as the pontiff’s special devotion to “Mary, Undoer of Knots” is known to many across the world.

The Marian image was carved from a piece of wood from a century-old acacia tree, planted in Malacañan Palace, that fell during the onslaught of Typhoon Glenda in July last year.

“In this sculpture, in ‘Mary, Undoer of Knots,’ in His Holiness’ life, and in the story of the Filipino people, we see the beauty of faith and the strength of devotion amidst the suffering and challenges of life,” noted a Malacañang backgrounder.

Fred Baldemor, a renowned and multi-awarded sculptor from Paete, Laguna, carved the image of Our Lady over several months.

Baldemor’s work has been exhibited in more than 35 countries.

Apart from the sculpture, Pope Francis also received limited edition 50-peso and 500-peso commemorative coins issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to mark the papal visit.

Both coins are legal tender and are minted under a licensing agreement with the Vatican.

The 50-peso coin, made of nickel brass, will be sold for P100 while the 500-peso, made of Nordic gold with gold plating, will be sold for P1,000 to cover production, packaging and other costs.

As a matter of policy, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas commemorates significant events in the Philippines’ history through the minting of coins, medals or overprints on the country’s banknotes.

Papal commemorative coins were issued during the visits of Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995. The central bank also released papal commemorative coins to mark the 1970 visit of Pope Paul VI. PND (co)

Pope Francis pushes through with scheduled visit to Leyte despite inclement weather
(TACLOBAN, Leyte) Pope Francis pushed through with his scheduled trip to this Visayan province, Saturday, braving strong winds and continuous rains in fulfillment of his mission to reach out to the poverty-stricken communities still reeling from the effects of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Pope Francis and his delegation arrived at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport just before 9:00 a.m. aboard a chartered Philippine Airlines flight from Manila.

Shortly after deplaning and shaking hands with government officials who welcomed him, Pope Francis immediately embarked on his popemobile to greet the thousands of people who patiently waited at the airport grounds just to be blessed by him.

Despite getting visibly soaked in the rain, the people did not manifest any sign of weariness. Instead, they were overwhelmed by joy at the mere sight of the pontiff, waving at them from his vehicle.

Leyte is currently under public storm warning signal no. 2 as tropical storm ‘Amang’ continues to head towards the eastern part of the Visayas region.

Pope Francis, however, refused to let bad weather impede on his official itinerary during his state and apostolic visit to the Philippines, which was, after all, stimulated by his intense personal desire to meet with the Typhoon Yolanda victims.

“When I saw from Rome the catastrophe, I felt that I had to be here. And on those very days, I decided to come here. I’m here to be with you—a little bit late, I have to say, but I’m here,” Pope Francis told the crowd in his homily during the concelebrated mass he held near the airport.

The pontiff expressed his deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones and properties from the disaster and offered words of encouragement to help them move forward.

“Jesus never lets you down. Please know that the love and tenderness of Mother Mary never lets you down. We’re holding on to her mantle. And with the power that comes from Jesus’ love on the cross, let us move forward, always forward, and work together as brothers and sisters…” Pope Francis said.

The mass concluded with Palo Archbishop John F. Du speaking on behalf of the entire people of Leyte to extend their profound gratitude to His Holiness for gracing their province with his presence.

Pope Francis left Tacloban just before noon and headed straight to the nearby town of Palo where he will have a lunch with the poor and other survivors of calamities.

Thereafter, he will conduct a blessing at a shelter facility for the poor that was built in his honor, as well as meet with priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, and families of ‘Yolanda’ survivors at the Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration, before heading back to Manila. PND (hdc)

Pope Francis tells families to dream, be wary of ‘new ideological colonization’
Pope Francis told families he met at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday evening to continue to dream, as it is not possible to have a family without such dreams.

“I like this idea of dreaming in a family. Every father and mother dream of their sons or daughters in the womb during nine months. Is this true or not? To dream of how your daughter or son will be? It is not possible to have a family without such a dream.

“When you lose this capacity to dream, you lose the capacity to love, this energy to love is lost. I recommend that at night, when you examine your conscience, ask yourself if you dreamed of the future of your sons and daughters. Did I dream about the love of my husband or wife? My parents?

“It is so important to dream and to dream in the family. Please don’t lose this ability to dream in this way,” the pontiff said in his message to the thousands of people who packed the venue for the pope’s meeting with families.

The Pontiff arrived at the arena at 5:13 p.m., going around the area in his Popemobile to greet the well-wishers who came, even stopping to kiss a baby girl from the crowd.

Pope Francis received a warm welcome from the 15,000 people waiting for him inside the arena.

The program started with welcome remarks from Atty. King Rodrigo, whose family was selected to represent the Filipino families.

The 100-year-old Mrs. Remedios Enriquez-Rodrigo, wife of the late senator Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo and the family matriarch, gave Pope Francis a garland made of sampaguita flowers.

Representatives of three families then gave testimonies regarding their lives. The first representative told of how they survive a life of poverty, the second told of their life with a parent working abroad, and the third represented families with physically disabled members.

In his message, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of rest, saying it is necessary for the health of minds and bodies but difficult to achieve due to the many demands of daily life.

“But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us,” he said, advising families to make time for prayer each day despite their busy schedules, as “without prayer, we will accomplish very little”.

The Pope further warned of dangers threatening families.

“We must be attentive to the new ideological colonization. Beware of the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family. It is not born of the dream that we have from God and prayer – it comes from outside and that’s why I call it a colonization,” he said.

“Let us not lose the freedom to take forward the mission God has given us, the mission of the family. And just as our peoples were able to say in the past ‘No’ to the period of colonization, as families, we have to be very wise and strong to say ‘No’ to any attempted ideological colonization that could destroy the family.”

The pressures on family life today are many, he said, noting that in the Philippines, countless families are still suffering from the effects of natural disasters.“The economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households. While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles, which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality,” he said, adding that the family is also threatened by growing efforts of those who redefine the institution of marriage, by relativism, and by a lack of openness to life.

“Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats,” he said.

“So protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them!”

Pope Francis urged families to be living examples of love, forgiveness and care and to respect life, “proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death”.

Finally, he encouraged families to “go beyond your homes and to care for our brothers and sisters who are most in need”.

“I ask you especially to show concern for those who do not have a family of their own, in particular those who are elderly and children without parents. Never let them feel isolated, alone and abandoned, but help them to know that God has not forgotten them,” he said.

Throughout his 31-minute talk, the Holy Father switched from English to Spanish, in which case his message was translated.

The program ended with Jamie Rivera singing to Pope Francis the official song for his visit, “We are All God’s Children”.

The Pope left the arena past 7 p.m. PND (ag)

Palace continues to appeal for Pope Francis’ safety as the pontiff wraps up pastoral visit
The government always remain busy to make Pope Francis’ stay in the country safe as the pontiff continues his events especially the huge mass at the Quirino Grandstand tomorrow, Sunday, a Malacanang official said.

“Para doon sa mga kababayan natin na naghahanda para bukas sa pagdalo sa misa sa Quirino Grandstand at doon sa mga kalapit na kalye, puspusan na po at talagang lahat na po ng paghahanda ay ginagawa ho ng ating pamahalaan para masigurado po ‘yung ating kaligtasan at ‘yung kapayapaan po sa misa,” Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview Saturday.

Valte made the appeal over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan to those participating in the event to prepare themselves, both mental and physical, to ensure their own safety as a large throng of people is expected to converge at the Quirino Grandstand for the mass on Sunday.

She noted for the people to always follow the instructions of the authorities appealing to them not to block the Maria Orosa Street, the entrance to the venue.

“Bawal ang mga payong. Ang pakiusap po natin ay mga kapote na lang po muna, mga transparent bags po ang ating gamitin to facilitate entry into the grounds, at marami pa pong mga paalala mula sa Philippine National Police,” she said.

“We continue to hope for everyone’s cooperation and we have seen what our self-discipline can do in the past two days, Valte noted. “Sana ay maipagpatuloy natin ito at ang ating talagang napakainit na pagtanggap para sa ating Santo Papa.”

Pope Francis is meeting young people at the University of Sto. Tomas tomorrow morning before celebrating a large mass in the afternoon. President Aquino, whose mother is a devout Catholic, is expected to attend the gathering.

Authorities expect the number attendees for the Sunday’s mass to surpass a 1995 record when Pope John Paul II led the World Youth Day. Around five million people participated in the event.

Organizers want to contain the people inside grids at the venue, to make the crowd more controllable. They also deployed portalets, policemen and paramedics to tend to any emergencies and maintain order.

The visiting pontiff, who arrived in the Philippines on Thursday for a five-day visit, is now in his third day in the Philippines, leading events in Tacloban City and Palo in Leyte.

However, the pope rushed to Manila earlier than expected because of a weather disturbance that will affect Borongan, Eastern Samar, late Saturday.

Pope Francis is in a weeklong tour in Asia, visiting Sri Lanka then the Philippines. He will return to the Vatican Monday morning. PND (as)

Cabinet officials in Tacloban plane mishap are all safe, says Palace
Cabinet members who figured in a plane mishap Saturday are all safe and their families and the public should not worry about them, a Palace statement said on Saturday.

In a statement, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said strong winds forced a plane carrying Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista and Undersecretary Felizardo Serapio, Jr., eight other staff members and three crew members to overshoot the runway at Tacloban Airport.

“All 15 passengers and crew members are all safe and suffered no injuries. The families of those on board have also been assured that their loved ones are safe,” Lacierda said.

The officials were in Tacloban to ensure safe and orderly conduct of activities of Pope Francis who visited Tacloban and Palo, Leyte, on Saturday.

Lacierda added that Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas has already informed President Aquino about the incident.

“The President was happy to hear that all on board were safe and directed the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to investigate whether the proximate cause of the incident was weather-related or otherwise,” he noted.

Pope Francis, who is in the third day of his visit in the Philippines, had to rush back to Manila earlier than expected because of the bad weather.

On Sunday, the pope will lead a massive mass at the Quirino Grandstand, which authorities said could surpass a 1995 record in terms of the number of attendees.

The pope is in a weeklong Asia tour visiting Sri Lanka and the Philippines. He will return to the Vatican on Monday morning. PND (as)

Pope Francis meets ‘Yolanda’ survivors
(TACLOBAN, Leyte) His Holiness Pope Francis on Saturday was finally able to meet with some of the survivors of the catastrophic Typhoon Yolanda in this Visayan province.

The pontiff met with the calamity survivors of the nearby town Palo at the Gonzagahaus, the Residence of the Archbishop of Palo, shortly after holding mass in Leyte’s capital.

Like the scene in Metro Manila, Pope Francis was greeted by throngs of Catholic faithful on his way to Palo, notwithstanding the inclement weather being experienced by the province that time.

It was a brief yet sweet encounter between Pope Francis and the people of Palo as the pontiff had to move quick with his engagements in Leyte so as to avoid any delay on his flight back to Manila.

Before departing Leyte for Manila, Pope Francis passed by the shelter facility for the poor that was built in his honor and blessed it from his pope mobile. He also met with priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, and families of ‘Yolanda’ survivors at the Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration also in Palo.

In his homily during a mass held earlier at the Tacloban Airport, Pope Francis told the people of Leyte to keep holding on to their faith in Jesus Christ and Mother Mary as they continue to move forward from the tragedy of Typhoon Yolanda.

The pontiff reminded them of the sacrifices rendered by Jesus Christ when he died on the cross for the salvation of mankind.

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

The towns of Tacloban and Palo in Leyte registered the most number of casualties in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda among all the areas affected by the Category 5 storm when it hit the country in November 2013.

Pope Francis said he might not have the answers to the questions that immediately sprang in the minds of those who lost their loved ones owing to the tragedy but the Lord understands them.

“Many of you have asked the Lord: “Why, Lord?” And to each of you, your heart, Christ responded from his heart upon the cross. I have no more words to tell you. Let us leave it to Christ. He is the Lord. He understands us because he underwent all the trials that we, or you, have experienced,” he said.

Pope Francis added that people could also trust in the guidance of Mother Mary in times of despair.

“In moments when we have so much pain, when we no longer understand anything, all we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and say, “Mom,” as a child does with her mother when he or she feels fear,” he said.

“Let us know that we have our Mother Mary and our senior brother, our great brother, Jesus. We are not alone. We also have many brothers who, in his moment of catastrophe, came to help you and we, too, because of this, we feel more brothers and sisters because we helped each other.” PND (hdc)