MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Pope Francis did not disappoint hundreds of former street children who were part of a massive campaign to show him one of the centers where they have found safety and love.
Although it was not in his official program, Pope Francis walked out of Manila’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral after Mass Jan. 16 and across the street to the Blessed Charles de Foucauld Home for Girls, which is run by the Tulay Ng Kabataan foundation.
(See a related video)
Accompanied by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, a frequent guest, the pope spent about half an hour with some 320 boys and girls and young adults from a number of TNK homes in metropolitan Manila.
“It was a beautiful, beautiful encounter,” Cardinal Tagle told reporters later. “You could see the Holy Father was in his element.”
The cardinal translated for the pope as several of the children approached and shared their stories, stories that often included horrible experiences of exploitation and abuse when they lived on the streets.
“You could see the attentiveness of the pope,” he said. Getting emotional himself, the cardinal said that, as he listened, the pope’s “eyes were getting cloudy and beginning to fill with tears. You could see he was trying to show his affection to the children, but at the same time trying to fathom these deep wounds and pain.”
When the children came up to touch and to hug the pope, he said, Pope Francis whispered to him that it was clear they yearned for a loving human touch, “the touch of a parent.”
The pope “assured the children that they are loved by God, that God is with them, and that they should not forget that.”
In a text message reply to questions, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the visit featured “songs, kisses and hugs. And a blessing.”
“These children — the poorest among the poor — are for sure the most vulnerable victims of our society, but they remain masters of joy, as one can see on their smiling faces,” the foundation’s director, 39-year-old Father Matthieu Dauchez, told Pope Francis.
In a statement issued after the visit, the center said that by taking the time to meet “many children who faced horrors of the street like begging, violence, drugs (and) prostitution,” Pope Francis demonstrated “that he is the pope of the forgotten.”
“This is awesome,” the statement quoted 10-year-old Alvin as saying. “He gave me a huge warm hug!”
Help us keep you informed -- CatholicPhilly.com can't do it without youDuring CatholicPhilly.com's fall donation campaign, you have a way to help us deliver the kind of news you need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live. Every household's costs keep rising, and we're no different. We make sure your dollars in any amount go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month. Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can -- a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: