Pope holds Mass in rainy Tacloban

By Philip Pullella and Manuel Mogato, Reuters
Posted at 01/17/2015 10:18 AM


TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Storms greeted Pope Francis when he arrived in the central Philippines city of Tacloban on Saturday to pray for the dead and comfort survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the country’s worst natural disaster that killed 6,300 people barely a year ago.

Tens of thousands of people wearing yellow raincoats cheered when Francis emerged from his plane in the coastal city of Tacloban 650 km (400 miles) southeast of Manila in steady rain and strong winds.

Francis began a Mass near Tacloban airport wearing a transparent yellow poncho over his vestments as heavy rain and strong winds lashed a large crowd of worshippers, who stood amid puddles in a mud-soaked field.

The storm was an eerie reminder of Haiyan, which hit the same area with 250 kph (155 mph) winds and created a seven-metre high storm surge, wiping out almost everything in its path when it swept ashore on Nov. 8, 2013.

Francis’s day trip to Leyte province gives him another opportunity to speak about climate change ahead of a major document on the environment he is due to issue in June.

The Pope will celebrate Mass at the airport and then see for himself the devastation wrought by Haiyan, the strongest storm to make landfall on record, when he goes to the nearby town of Palo to have lunch with survivors.


Speaking at the presidential palace on Friday, the Pope admired the “heroic strength, faith and resilience” shown by the Philippines as well as the solidarity people demonstrated after the typhoon.

The storm destroyed around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province. More than 14.5 million people were affected in six regions and 44 provinces. About one million people remain homeless.

The government estimates it needs almost 170 billion pesos ($3.8 billion) to rebuild the affected communities, including the construction of a four-metre high dike along the 27-km (17 miles) coastline to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

Nearly 3,000 victims are buried in the city’s almost half-hectare mass grave site. Hundreds are still unaccounted for.

Germanwatch, a think tank partly funded by the German government, said in a report last year the Philippines was the country hardest hit by extreme weather in 2013.

Francis waded into the climate change debate on Thursday, telling reporters that he believed that man was primarily responsible for climate change and that he hoped this year’s U.N. climate meeting in Paris would take a courageous stand to protect the environment.

The Pope said his long-awaited encyclical on the environment was almost finished and that he hoped it would be published in June, ahead of the U.N. conference in November.

“I don’t know if it is all (man’s fault) but the majority is. For the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature,” he told reporters on the way to Manila.

Those words were his clearest to date on climate change, which has sparked worldwide debate and even divided conservative and liberal Catholics, particularly in the United States.

“I think man has gone too far,” he said. “Thank God that today there are voices that are speaking out about this,” he said.


Pictures capturing the spirit of the Pope’s visit in Tacloban City




Pope tells ‘Yolanda’ survivors: I’m here to be with you

By Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBNnews.com
Posted at 01/17/2015 11:01 AM | Updated as of 01/17/2015 11:07 AM


MANILA – Pope Francis flew to Tacloban City, Leyte on Saturday to celebrate Mass with thousands of survivors of super typhoon Yolanda and give them hope that all is not lost despite the tragedy.

Light rains, accompanied by strong winds, brought about by typhoon Amang did not dampen the spirit of the Pope, who is now on the third day of his visit to the Philippines, to hold Mass at the makeshift stage at the Tacloban Airport.

“When I saw from Rome the catastrophe, I felt that I had to be here,” the Pope said in his homily, in Spanish. “And on those very days, I decided to come here. I am here to be with you. A little bit late, I have to say, but I am here.”

Yolanda, the strongest and deadliest typhoon to hit land, struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013.

It claimed the lives of at least 6,300 people and injured 28,000 others. About 1,000 individuals remain missing over a year after the onslaught of the super typhoon.

Yolanda also came as the country was still reeling from the devastating effects of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol in October, and the siege of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga in September.

“‘Father,’ you might say to me, ‘I was let down because I lost so many things — my house, my livelihood — I have illness.’ It’s true if you would say that and I respect those sentiments,” Pope Francis said, addressing the thousands of Filipino faithful who braved the streets to hear his Mass.

“But Jesus there, nailed to the cross, from there, He does not let us down,” the Pope said, as some devotees started weeping openly while listening to the pontiff’s homily.

“There, He experienced all calamities that we experience… We have a Lord who is capable of crying with us, capable of walking with us, in the most difficult moments of life,” he added.

Most of the typhoon survivors might have, at one point in their lives, questioned the Lord why it was them who was struck by the tragedy, said the Pope.

Pope Francis did not attempt to offer any answers, admitting that he himself does not know how to respond to the question.

But he said the victims of the disaster must not lose hope and just continue to cling to the Lord.

“So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you, but the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart.”

“Many of you have asked the Lord, ‘Why, Lord?’ And to each of you to your heart, Christ responds from His heart upon the cross. I have no more words to say to you. Let us look to Christ. He is the Lord. He understands us because He underwent all the trials that we, that you, have experienced,” he said.

“In the moments when we have so much pain, when we no longer understand anything, all we can do is grab hold of her (Mary) hand firmly, and say ‘mom’ as a child says to her mother when he or she feels fear,” he added.

Pope Francis ended his homily by telling the crowd that they are not alone. They must strive to move forward together, he said.

“Please know that Jesus never lets you down. Please know that the love and tenderness of Mary never lets you down… Let us move forward, always forward, and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord, forward,” the Pope said.


Pope Francis Praises Typhoon Haiyan Survivors and Filipino Migrant Workers

Pope Francis on Climate Action: A Revival of ‘The Commons’ to Rethink Economy & Society

Progressive Graffiti

Pope Francis is making a statement not just for Catholics, but for the world.

Pope Francis Plea for Climate Action Revives Concept of ‘The Commons’ to Rethink Economy & Society

We continue our coverage of Pope Francis’s visit to the Philippines, the country most impacted by global warming, ahead of his plans to issue the first-ever comprehensive Vatican teachings on climate change. The pope recently said the warming planet is ‘frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity.’

We are joined by Nathan Schneider, a columnist at America magazine, a national Catholic weekly magazine published by the Jesuits, where he has been covering Catholic engagement with climate change. ‘[The Commons] is a different way of thinking about economics that is a part of Catholic tradition,’ Schneider says. ‘Pope Francis talking about the environment, about creation, is not an innovation; it is a response to a contemporary crisis. But it goes way…

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Chaplains Minister in Philippines Where Suffering Remains After Typhoon

By Kristy Etheridge   •   October 15, 2014


It’s been just under a year since Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, ravaged the island nation, leaving 6,200 bodies and a long list of sick, injured and missing in its wake.

These past 11 months, while the news cycle has turned from Ukraine to the winter Olympics to terrorism in the Middle East, millions of Filipinos have simply been putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, in their still-devastated country.

In June, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains Carolin and Desi Perez left the comforts of their house in Oklahoma to begin a five-month deployment to the Philippines. At that time, seven months had passed since the Nov. 8 typhoon made landfall, with sustained winds of 195 mph. (By comparison, Hurricane Katrina’s sustained wind speed topped out at 125 mph when it slammed into Louisiana.)

“When you land at the airport, driving along the coastal area, there’s devastation all around you,” Carolin said. “Boats up on the roads. Ships, huge ships, that haven’t been moved yet. People living in aluminum framed shacks. It just looks like a bomb went off.”

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Even now, four months into their deployment, Carolin and Desi still see upheaval. Many people don’t have running water. Food and adequate shelter are also lacking.

“There are still a lot of people with no roof on their house,” Carolin said. “A lot of houses have temporary tarps that Samaritan’s Purse provided.”

“You’ll see little girls and boys bathing in a mud puddle,” Desi added “And in the States, sometimes we’re complaining that our shower is too small. I don’t have this, I don’t have that.”

At the invitation of local churches, the two crisis-trained chaplains have been traveling to cities and villages, helping overwhelmed pastors however they can. Earlier this week, Carolin and Desi held their fourth Grief in Crisis training in the city of Ormoc, Leyte Province, which was flattened during the typhoon. They worked with 42 pastors hoping to learn about how to best serve the hurting people of their community.

Boats and even massive ships like this one have yet to be removed nearly a year after the typhoon hit.
“Our goal has been to come alongside the pastors and provide them with encouragement and to be able to tell them that they’re not alone,” Carolin said. “It’s been amazing to see how much it’s meant to them, just to know that someone cares.”

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team—which has deployed to more than 220 disasters since 2002—arrived in the Philippines in May. Chaplains Barb and Leo Grabowski from Charlotte, North Carolina spent two months sharing the hope of Christ with pastors and other residents before Carolin and Desi took over. Altogether, the chaplains have prayed with 1,275 people in the country.

They’ve rejoiced over miracles—like the way God protected a group of six people, including a pregnant woman, who survived the flooding by clinging to a floating wooden door.

And they’ve cried over devastating sorrow—weeping with a young pastor who lost his wife and both of his young daughters to the powerful storm. Even after an unimaginable loss, he’s still praising God.

Church members stand next to “the miracle door” that allowed six people to survive the flood. It’s now the front door of their church.
“Our brothers and sisters here in the Philippines are people of great faith,” Carolin said. “They really depend upon God as their resource for everything, and they pray believing that God hears their prayers and is going to answer their prayers.”

Desi and Carolin know God answered in the affirmative when a Filipino pastor repeatedly prayed for her nephew to accept Jesus as his Savior. After losing his wife and son in a motorcycle accident and then living through the typhoon, he was going down the wrong path—using drugs and getting in with the wrong crowd, despite having a young daughter.

At the request of the man’s aunt and other relatives, the chaplains paid him a visit.

“Desi and I shared the Gospel with him,” Carolin said. “And he accepted Christ on the spot.”

Despite having two pastors in the family, his relatives laughed and praised God for sending a couple from the other side of the world to lead him to the Lord.

“He’s now serving in the church, returning to school and he’s working to turn his life around,” Carolin said.

Carolin and Desi have organized youth events for Filipino children. They’ve found that many of the kids enjoy playing Bingo! and checkers.
And that’s just one of many answered prayers—a snapshot of God’s goodness in the midst of crisis.

As they prepare to return to Oklahoma next month, Carolin and Desi hope believers in the U.S. and around the world will not forget to support the Filipino people. They’re excited about the Will Graham Celebration scheduled to take place in Tacloban next March, and they’re praying for God to continue to move powerfully across the Philippines.

“It’s so important that we keep praying for our brothers and sisters here,” Carolin said. “People are seeking answers, seeking a hope. As a result of the magnitude of Yolanda, we believe that a revival is happening here.

“This is the time for the Philippines.”