Pilgrims brave rain and strong wind as they wait at Tacloban airport for Pope Francis to arrive on Saturday. About two million people are expected to attend an open-air mass in Leyte, which is still struggling to recover from Super Typhoon Yolanda that killed more than 6,000 people in 2013. (MNS photo)

Pilgrims brave rain and strong wind as they wait at Tacloban airport for Pope Francis to arrive on Saturday. About two million people are expected to attend an open-air mass in Leyte, which is still struggling to recover from Super Typhoon Yolanda that killed more than 6,000 people in 2013. (MNS photo)

MANILA   (Mabuhay) – Meanwhile, militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said a bigger challenge awaits Filipinos after Pope Francis leaves.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said his group thanked Pope Francis for “consistent advocacy of the poor and his liberating message of breaking the bonds of injustice and oppression.”

However, Reyes said the bigger challenge is putting into practice the words expressed by the Pope, now that he has left.

Reyes particularly referred to the Pope’s statements on poverty, inequality, social exclusion, and corruption, and the need to give a voice to the poor.

“The message may have fallen on deaf ears with the Pope’s audience in Malacañang, but certainly it resonated with the millions of Filipinos who lined up the streets and gathered in Luneta and Tacloban. The Pope’s message to the poor should inspire the people to organize and struggle for better wages, for social services, for pro-people rehabilitation in Yolanda-affected areas, for education, health care, for the resumption of the peace talks, and for the release of political prisoners,” Reyes said.

Reyes also said the Pope’s message was “liberating and in many ways, even subversive because it was critical of the prevailing social order where scandalous corruption and gross inequality are prevalent.”

Bayan called on the Aquino administration to resume the peace talks with the National Democratic Front and release political prisoners following the visit of Pope Francis.

“Now is a good time to put into practice the words of Pope Francis. Jumpstarting the peace talks to seriously address the root causes of armed conflict will be immensely beneficial to the poor, especially the peasants, workers, urban poor and other oppressed sectors. Releasing political prisoners, more than a display of mercy and compassion, would also rectify grave injustice,” he said. (MNS)