On Sunday, January 18, 2015, in the morning, a huge crowd greeted Pope Francis at the University of Sto. Tomas where he met with different religious leaders and led a liturgical celebration at the UST Sports Field for his Encounter With the Youth.
The Pope listened as four representatives of the Filipino youth – former street children Jon Chura and Glyzelle Palomar, law student Leandro Santos II and engineer and Yolanda volunteer Rikki Macolor – shared their testimonies.
Palomar, of the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation, burst into tears as she read her testimony on her experiences as an abandoned street child and asked why God allowed these things to happen to children.
Santos talked about the values of today’s youth and asked how they can take time out and listen to God. Macolor shared his experiences as a volunteer for Yolanda survivors and asked how the youth can be agents of compassion.
Pope Francis deviated from his prepared homily and instead sought to answer the questions put forth by the three. “Why do children suffer so much? When the heart is able to ask itself and cry then we understand something,” he said in reference to Palomar. “He told the crowd to “learn how to weep, as she (Palomar) has shown us today”. “If you don’t learn how to cry”, said Pope Francis, “you cannot be a good Christian…Be courageous: don’t be afraid to cry”.
In answer to Santos’ question, the pontiff replied: “We have so much information but maybe we don’t know what to do with that information. We run the risk of becoming museums of young people that have everything but without knowing what to do with these. We don’t need young museums. We need holy young people.”
In reply to Macolor, Pope Francis said: “You know how to give but you have not yet learned how to receive. Become a beggar. To learn how to receive with humility, to learn how to be evangelized by the poor. Do you know that you too are poor?”
The Pope also asked why there were very few women in the audience. “Women are capable of seeing things from a different angle,” he said. “Women are able to pose questions that we men cannot understand.”
Pope Francis also asked for a moment of silence for Kristel Mae Padasas, the volunteer who died Saturday in an accident during the mass at Tacloban Airport.
In the afternoon, during a mass attended by attended by around 6 million people in Manila’s Rizal Park Pope Francis called on Filipinos to be “outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia”. In his homily, the Pope described the Philippines as “the foremost Catholic country in Asia,” saying “this is itself a special gift of God, a blessing,” and a “vocation.”
The Pope recalled that each of us has been chosen by God to be “witnesses of his truth and his justice in this world” and to care for creation. But man, he said, has “disfigured that natural beauty; through sin, man has also destroyed the unity and beauty of our human family, creating social structures which perpetuate poverty, ignorance and corruption.”
The Pope warned against the devil, “the father of lies” who hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being ‘modern’, ‘like everyone else.’ We are distracted, he said, by “ephemeral pleasures and superficial pastimes” and “squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets,” and “squander our money on gambling and drink.”
On the day the Filipino Church celebrates the “Santo Niño,” Pope Francis urged Filippinos to look to the Christ Child, the protector of the Philippines, as their model, and reminded them of the importance of protecting the family. He added, “we need to see each child as a gift to be welcome, cherished and protected” and recalled that young people need our care so they will not be “robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.”
He urged Filipinos to work together to build “a world of justice, integrity and peace.”