Jan 152015
A joyous, fiesta-like welcome greeted Pope Francis upon his arrival in the Philippines late Thursday afternoon for his much awaited five-day state and apostolic visit.

Thousands of people gathered on the streets to witness Pope Francis’ nighttime motorcade that would bring him from Villamor Air Base to the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue, his official residence during the visit.

All over the Philippines, a pre-dominantly Catholic country, Church bells tolled when the 78-year-old Pope arrived for the final leg of his week-long Asian tour. His plane landed 5:32 p.m. and he was fetched from the plane by Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, the apostolic nuncio.

Before the Philippines, Pope Francis visited Sri Lanka for the canonization ceremony of Joseph Vaz. He chose Sri Lankan Airlines to fly him to the Philippines instead of the Italian carrier Alitalia.

The trip comes just five months after Pope Francis visited South Korea, signalling the huge
importance the Vatican places on Asia and its potential for more followers.

Pope Francis, who arrived via Sri Lanka A340, was welcomed by Philippine government and Church officials led by President Benigno Aquino III.

At Villamor Air Base, a festive dance number was performed by Filipino students to greet the Pope.
Nine-year-old Lanie Ortillo and 10-year-old Mark Angelo Balbero, both orphans, offered him a bouquet of flowers.

The Philippines is one of the Catholic Church’s modern success stories, counting roughly 80 percent of the former Spanish colony’s 100 million people as Catholics, which has helped to offset waning influence in Europe and the United States.

During his visit, Pope Francis will meet survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Leyte, an event that local Church leaders said is the “centerpiece” of his Philippine visit.

Over 6,000 people died when Yolanda lashed Central Visayas in November 2013, with millions left homeless and desperate.

In Leyte, the Pope will celebrate Mass with the survivors at the airport in Tacloban, one of the
worst-hit cities by the typhoon.

The Pope is also scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila, an event expected to be attended by millions of devotees.

Pope Francis will depart the country Monday morning, January 19. —KBK, GMA News

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