Pope Francis’ second Asian voyage ended the way all of his trips have ended: with an extensive press conference on board the return flight and flurry of headlines – some accurate, some not. The voyage also delivered unscripted moments typical of the Jesuit pope.
Twice Pope Francis ditched his prepared text to speak off the cuff and deliver unquestionably moving homilies. Speaking to young people in Manila he led the gathered faithful in a prayer for Kristel Padasas, a volunteer who was killed at the site of the papal Mass in Tacloban when strong winds knocked over a tower of scaffolding.
Padasas was also a Catholic Relief Services worker. Pope Francis met with her father and uncle the day after her death and tried to telephone her mother who was en route from Hong Kong. Like many Philippinos, Padasas’ mother worked in Hong Kong to support the family.
Pope Francis told journalists on board the flight from Manila to Rome that Padasas’ father said he struggled at first with his daughter’s death, but found peace in the fact that she was serving others when she died. The pope said he found the grieving father’s words “edifying”.
For american media the biggest headlines were the pope’s confirmation of his intent to visit three U.S. cities during his trip to Philadelphia. He said he intends to visit New York and Washington D.C and hopes to canonize Junipero Serra in D.C.
However, the rest of the pope’s comments regarding his intended voyages got less attention. Pope Francis said he intends to visit three Latin American countries in 2015: Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador. He pointed out that all three visits are still in the “hypothetical” stage and no concrete plans have been made yet. The lack of official confirmation has not stopped Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, from announcing that the pope will visit that country in July. The Bolivian Bishops Conference issued a statement saying there is a long way to go before this potential visit becomes a certainty. The bishops also warned against “instrumentalizing” the news of a potential papal visit for political purposes. In recent months and years Morales and the bishops of the country have not had an easy relationship.
Pope Francis also said he hopes to visit Central African Republic and Uganda towards the end of 2015. In 2016 the pope hopes to visit Paraguay, Argentina and Chile “God willing.”
The pope’s public statement of intent laid to rest Spain’s hope that the pontiff would visit Avila this year for the 500th anniversary of St. Therese’s birth. On Thursday the Bishops Conference of Spain announced it had received official word from the Vatican that the trip would not take place.
Of course, the other comments made during the papal press conference have sparked some debate: his statement that Catholics should be responsible when it comes to having children has offended some and encouraged others. Here are some articles offering analysis of the pope’s remarks regarding marriage and children:
From Italy’s Vatican Insider, a look what Pope Francis did and did not say about large families.
The International Business Times offers a more secular summary of the pope’s statement and what it means.
Religion News Service offers this analysis.
The UK’s Catholic Herald reflects on why some find it difficult not to be offended by the pope’s comments
Catholic Voices co-founder Austen Ivereigh had this analysis on CV blog.