Pope Francis’ visit to ‘Yolanda’-devastated Leyte eyed
PALO, Leyte, Philippines—Pope Francis might just visit this typhoon-devastated province of more than 1 million Catholic faithful.
“The Holy Father might just come. There is a plan but there is no calendar yet (for this possible visit). But we are praying for it,” Archbishop John Du, the archbishop of Palo, said in an interview.
Du said that through Robert Cardinal Sarah who visited Leyte on Tuesday, the Holy Father had expressed his “oneness and solidarity” with the people of Leyte and the rest of the areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8 last year.
Cardinal Sarah, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council Cor Unum responsible for charity and humanitarian assistance, presided over a Holy Mass at the damaged Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Barangay (village) Libertad, some four kilometers away from the town proper. The church’s roof was blown away and is now covered with tarpaulin.
Sarah, prior to the holding of the Mass at Libertad, made quick visits to areas hit by Yolanda in Tacloban. He visited the San Jose district and Old Road Sagkahan district.
The cardinal also visited the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Tacloban City, which is run by the Catholic Church, which also sustained damage due to Yolanda.
“He was so disheartened when he saw the massive devastation of Yolanda in Tacloban,” said Henrieta de Villa, former ambassador to the Vatican who was among those who accompanied the visiting cardinal.
Sarah, in his homily, assured the faithful who attended the Mass held at the Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Church that the Lord would never leave His people despite the massive devastation they suffered due to Yolanda.
The cardinal also disclosed that his visit to Leyte and Tacloban was “in the name of the Holy Father, Pope Francis.”
“The Holy Father wishes to express in my person, the closeness and indeed the loving and compassionate presence to you of the Lord Jesus and the entire Church,” he said.
Father Dean Michael Calaneja, parish priest of the Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Church, said that they were happy that a high official from the Vatican came.
He also hoped that with the cardinal’s visit, the repair of the 11-year-old church would be hastened.
Archbishop Du said that practically all the more than 70 churches within the archdiocese were damaged or destroyed by Yolanda.
He, however, could not say how much the entire archdiocese would need for the repair of these churches. But he said that the cathedral alone, located at Palo, would need about P35 million for its repair.
The archbishop described the visits of high-profile personalities here, which have drawn much-needed attention to the plight of Yolanda survivors, as “blessings.”
Among the latest to visit Leyte and Tacloban, considered to be the Ground Zero of the massive typhoon, was King Carl VXI Gustaf of Sweden.
Earlier, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry and international pop star Justin Bieber also visited Tacloban.
Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, also visited Tacloban City and Palo town last December.
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