January 18, 2015
|Pope Francis embraces two children, including 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar, during his visit to the University of Santo Tomas, in Manila, on January 18, 2015 |
©Giuseppe Cacace (AFP)
Pope Francis made a 5-day visit to the Philippines where 80% of the population is Catholic. Over 6 million devoted followers came out to see the pope despite unrelenting rain.
The pope met with young people at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila discarding his prepared words to deliver an impromtu speech after being moved by several former street children. One 12-year-old girl Glyzelle sobbed as she asked the pope why God lets children suffer, speaking of the poverty and prostitution on the streets.
The pope was met by a crowd of over 200,000 Typhoon Haiyan survivors in Tacloban, Leyete where he celebrated mass at the airport. The pope apologized for having to return to Manila because of an approaching tropical storm.
In his speech made at Malacanang the Pope praised the contributions of the Filipino workers who are spread all over the world. He said:
"I would also mention the oft-neglected yet real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live."During to Pope's visit to the Mall of Asia in Manila the pontiff spoke of the dangers to Filipino families:
"Pope Francis said economic difficulties have also caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households."Filipino Migrant Workers in Hong Kong Chairperson Dolores Balladares said, OFWs appreciate Pope Francis’ meeting with Filipino migrant workers and families as part of his visit to the country.
“Even overseas, we are overjoyed with the pope’s presence among our compatriots and fervently wish for his support to our people who are impoverished and disempowered by the economic, social and political problems in our country."
“We are a people displaced by poverty, unemployment and a system that does not uphold our dignity and right for a decent living with our loved ones. Despite the vaunted growth that the government reports, the increasing number of Filipinos forced to live and work overseas, experience exploitation and discrimination and encounter some of the most unspeakable abuses in a foreign land are proofs of a people desperate to survive and sustain even the most basic of needs.”The Sunday Times reported:
About half of population have been affected by labour migration and the strain of decades of labour migration has come at a significant social cost. Francis has made defense of vulnerable migrants and workers a central issue of his papacy. "Filipino families are divided as people continue to be the country's largest export. Over 12 million Filipinos work overseas. The Philippines ranks fourth among countries receiving remittances.
Having witnessed the ill-treatment of Filipino and and other migrant workers, I praise the pope's call to appreciate the migrant workers and recognize their many contributions.
I hope the pope will address the plight of the migrant workers when he visits the United States. There are millions of migrant workers and their family members on U.S. soil from the CNMI to Florida who suffer from discrimination, poverty and human rights and labor abuses. It must end.