Young and old pilgrims await Pope Francis' blessing
MANILA, Philippines – Under the hot sun, 54-year-old Leticia Santos bears the exhaust fumes of passing vehicles along Quirino avenue in Manila.
Santos left her home in Novaliches, Quezon City, hours before daybreak on Thursday, January 15, and has been waiting since 4 am for Pope Francis’ arrival in the Apostolic Nuncio in Manila.
A choir member of San Jose Tagapagtanggol Parish in Novaliches, Santos is one of many pilgrims waiting near the Vatican ambassador's Manila residence, hoping to get a glimpse of the Catholic leader.
“Since it was announced that the Pope will visit the Philippines, it’s been my dream to see him in person. I know that if we meet in person, I know I’ll be blessed,” Santos said.
A devout Catholic, Santos didn’t get to see past popes who visited the country. This time, she said, she’s not missing her chance.
“It will be my first time to see a Pope. I’m very happy that I’m with my brothers and sisters in the parish when he arrives later,” she said.
Santos said she’ll wait for the Pope no matter what discomfort it brings.
“I’m not afraid to get sick because when you’re serving God, when you have faith, he takes care of you,” she added.
Francis’ arrival in the country has drawn millions of Catholic faithful of all ages. The charismatic leader easily captures Filipinos’ admiration because of his pro-poor and pro-people stance.
The Argentine pontiff is also popular among the Filipino youth.
Nancy Piquero and her friends from the youth ministry in Novaliches are also waiting for Francis near the Apostolic Nuncio. Like others, the young women said they feel blessed just to have the chance to see their idol in person.
“Many countries wish for Pope Francis to visit them but he chose us. We are really blessed to be visited by the Pope. He’s our inspiration,” Piquero said.
She added: “I haven’t seen a pope before. I think I’ll cry because of happiness when I finally see him.”
Her main goal in waiting is to have a selfie with Francis, a leader known to entertain such requests from the youth.
“My ultimate dream is to have a selfie with the Pope. Even if I just get the chance to hold his hand, I’ll really feel blessed,” she said.
Santos and Piquero’s dreams of having an encounter with the Pope might be a long shot. The government has tightened security around the area. The portion of Taft Avenue where the nuncio is located is off limits to civilians. Pilgrims are also prohibited from camping out in the vicinity.
As for Santos, she only prays for one thing in the papal visit: “I hope that his visit will bring peace to the Philippines. I hope he’ll bless us so our lives will be better.” – Rappler.com