Asia

Pope Francis in Manila: Six million attend outdoor Mass

  • 18 January 2015
  • From the section Asia
Aerial shot of people waiting for the Pope. Image copyright EPA
Image caption An aerial view of Rizal Park shows the millions attending Mass

Pope Francis has celebrated an outdoor Mass in front of unprecedented crowds in the Philippine capital Manila.

Six million people attended the ceremony or lined the Papal route to Rizal Park, city officials estimate.

That would be a record for a papal event. About five million welcomed Pope John Paul II in Manila in 1995.

The Vatican said Pope Francis had dedicated the service in part to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the country in 2013.

The Mass will be the Pope's final full day in the Philippines, where there are 80 million Catholics, concluding his six-day tour of Asia.

Media captionMillions of people have turned out to see the Pope despite the rain, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports

At the scene - Caroline Wyatt, BBC religious affairs correspondent

The atmosphere has been electrifying, despite the heavy rain. Pope Francis's visit has been seen here as a resounding success. There's been enormous enthusiasm for the Pope and the themes he's focused on - helping the poor, the importance of the family, and protecting the environment.

Those who couldn't reach the park for the Mass stood patiently under umbrellas as close as they could, to catch glimpse of Pope Francis on his way there. A woman called Sara told us that her whole family had come in from the provinces to stay over the weekend and ensure they saw the Pope on what they see as a historic, once in a lifetime visit. One man, Jocson, said: "We are here to bear witness also, to see the Pope personally."


Image copyright EPA
Image caption Braving the rain, and holding statuettes of the Child Jesus, they turned out in force to attend the Mass
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The colourful setting added to the festive atmosphere
Image copyright EPA
Image caption These dancers were there to celebrate
Image copyright AP
Image caption The Pope celebrated Mass in the knowledge of how popular the faith is in a country with 80 million Roman Catholics

Pope Francis arrived in a "popemobile" based on the design of the local minibuses, known as jeepneys.

Crowds sang and cheered as the Pope stopped at various points to greet worshippers.

Some people had camped outside the park overnight to be the first ones admitted when the gates opened early on Sunday morning.

"It's such deep joy - so much hope for our country - we really need his message - we need transformation among us and that is what he told us," one of the worshippers, Chad Soniko, told the BBC, adding and wiping away tears: "Really, really, really touched."

Thirteen-year-old John Paul Jones said: "I saw God in his eyes."

Before the final Mass, the Pope held morning meetings with religious leaders and young people at the University of Santo Tomas which is the biggest Catholic university in Asia.

Pope Francis opened his meeting with over 20,000 students by remembering the 27-year-old woman who had died during his visit to Tacloban.

Earlier, police had reported that she had been killed when scaffolding collapsed after Saturday's Mass.

The Pope then listened to several children speak about their experiences of growing up on the streets.

One of the children, 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar, wept as she told her story and asked why God had allowed children to suffer so much.

A visibly moved Pope Francis replied: "Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question."

He added that the world needed to learn how to cry with those in need.

"Those on the margins cry. Those who have fallen by the wayside cry. Those who are discarded cry. But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don't know how to cry," he said.

Pope Francis, who comes from Argentina, was applauded when he told students that sometimes men were too macho, and that women had much to tell today's society, seeing the world through different eyes, and asking different questions.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pope Francis kissed babies as people around took pictures of the unforgettable event
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Crowds of worshippers had to be held back by police along the route
Image copyright EPA
Image caption People prayed for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan during the Mass on Saturday in Tacloban

Typhoon survivors

On Saturday, the Pope visited a region devastated by Typhoon Haiyan just over a year ago.

The Pope said as soon as he saw the catastrophe caused by the typhoon, he had decided to go to the Philippines.

He was due to have lunch in with survivors of the disaster in Tacloban but was forced to cut short his trip due to a tropical storm.

Before he left for Manila, the Pope held an outdoor mass for about 150,000 worshippers amid strong winds and pouring rains.

During the Mass, the Pope spoke of the terrible impact of Typhoon Haiyan.

He told the faithful that "so many of you in Tacloban have lost everything. I don't know what to say - but the Lord does… He underwent so many of the trials that you do".

Typhoon Haiyan, which remains the strongest storm ever recorded on land, created a 7m (23ft) high storm surge, destroying practically everything in its path when it swept ashore on 8 November 2013.

More than 14.5 million people were affected in six regions and 44 provinces. About one million people remain homeless.

A national holiday has been declared in the capital for the duration of the Pope's visit.

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