Rain-soaked pope braves storm to comfort typhoon victims

Sat Jan 17, 2015 4:35pm EST
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Philip Pullella and Manuel Mogato

TACLOBAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Pope Francis, wearing a plastic poncho against gusting winds and driving rain, kept a promise on Saturday to comfort survivors of a devastating 2013 typhoon but a new storm forced him to leave early.

The pope flew to Tacloban, ground zero of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the area around Leyte Island 14 months ago, killing at least 6,300 people, leaving a million others homeless and displacing four million.

The strong wind blew the white skull cap from Francis' head and rippled his white cassock as he disembarked from his plane. He donned the same type of yellow, transparent poncho worn by the hundreds of thousands of people in the area as tropical storm Mekkhala hit, with wind gusts of up to 130 km/h (80 mph).

At a Mass near the airport, he put aside his prepared homily and delivered a very personal, emotional message of comfort to survivors, who stood amid puddles in mud-soaked fields and along roadsides.

He told them that he had vowed to make the trip in November 2013 when he saw reports of the devastation Haiyan had caused.

"I felt that I had to be here ... I am here to be with you, perhaps a little late, I have to say, but I am here," he said.

The Pope, speaking through an interpreter who translated his comments into English from his native Spanish, said he "respected the feelings" of those who felt they had been let down by God because of the disaster but implored them to move forward in their faith.

"Many of you have asked the Lord, 'Why?' And to each of you the Lord is responding to your hearts from his heart ... 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," he said.   Continued...

 
Pope Francis (L) wears a rain poncho as he attends a Mass near Tacloban airport January 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini