Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the grounds of the airport in Tacloban City, Philippines, on Saturday
morning. An estimated 500 thousand people braved wind and often driving rain to take part in the liturgy. Putting aside his prepared text for the homily, the Holy Father spoke to the gathered faithful in his native Spanish. Below, please find a transcription of the English translation of the Holy Father's remarks, which were translated on-site by one of the ministers in the sanctuary.
Homily of Pope Francis at Tacloban Airport
January 17, 2015
"In all our trials, the Lord goes before us"
We have a high priest who is capable of sympathising with our weaknesses. Jesus is like us. Jesus lived like us and is the same us in every respect, except sin because he was not a sinner. But to be more like us he assumed our condition and our sin. He made himself into sin. This is what St. Paul tells us. And Jesus always goes before us and when we pass an experience, a cross, he passed there before us. And if today we find ourselves here 14 months afterwards, 14 months precisely after the Typhoon Yolanda hit, it is because we have the security of knowing we will not weaken in our faith because Jesus has been here before us. In his Passion he assumed all our pain. Therefore he is capable of understanding us, as we heard in the first reading.
I’d like to tell you something close to my heart. When I saw from Rome that catastrophe I had to be here. And on those very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you – a little bit late, but I’m here. I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down. Father, you might say to me, I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It’s true if you say that and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down. He was consecrated as Lord on that throne and there he experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you. In everything the same as us. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life.
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 have 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 with his heart from the cross. I have no more words for 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. And beside the cross was his Mother. We are like a little child in the moments when we have so much pain and no longer understand anything. All we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and say “Mommy” - like a child does when it is afraid. It is perhaps the only words we can say in difficult times – “Mommy”.
Let us respect a moment of silence together and look to Christ on the cross. He understands us because he endured everything. Let us look to our Mother and, like a little child, let us hold onto her mantle and with a true heart say – “Mother”. In silence, tell your Mother what you feel in your heart. Let us know that we have a Mother, Mary, and a great Brother, Jesus. We are not alone. We also have many brothers who in this moment of catastrophe came to help. And we too, because of this, we feel more like brothers and sisters because we helped each other.
This is what comes from my heart. Forgive me if I have no other words to express myself. Please know that Jesus never lets you down. Know that the tenderness of Mary never lets you down. And holding onto her mantle and with the power that comes from Jesus’ love on the cross, let us move forward and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Words of Thanks of Archbishop John F. Du of Palo addressed to the Holy Father
after the Communion Prayer.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Most Holy Father, I would never have imagined that I would be able to say these words in this very place, in front of Your Holiness and in the presence of so many pilgrims. We are on Yolanda (Supertyphoon Haiyan) "ground zero" here - where the storm surge caused so much destruction and a massive loss of life. Water in this area was some 7 meters deep; this was then a place of fear, suffering and death. Now, for all of us, this is a place transformed! Behold our joy and gladness and see the life and energy that fills our surroundings!
And this is why your presence here inspires me to give praise to God, who, out of untold catastrophe has gifted us with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come as one with you in joyful thanksgiving. Our deep appreciation for your presence here in the Archdiocese of Palo can hardly be expressed with words. Let our unity then, on this blessed day, in this hallowed place, be the supreme manifestation of a faith that inspires one to thank God and to rejoice always even amidst trials and tribulations (cf. Rom 5:3-5).
We are deeply filled with joy and consolation that you have celebrated this Eucharist with us- this great act of thanksgiving to God which is a constant source of strength and fount of hope in our Christian life. We know that you have been with us all this time, and your coming here culminates the great outpouring of spiritual and material assistance from the Church for us.
Your Holiness, you have come to us with a father's compassion and loving concern, and thus have brought us to God the Father of All. You have also come as a shepherd of the Lord's flock and thus have brought us closer to the Good Shepherd Himself. Your visit strengthens and consoles us; may your humble presence among the poor and among us who have suffered the tragedy of a Super Typhoon ever lead us to the restful waters of God’s mercy and love. We will always be grateful! For indeed, as the Psalmist says “...the Lord will not abandon His People, nor will He forsake His inheritance" (Ps. 94:14).
Blessed be God forever!