Pope Francis wears a plastic poncho as he waves to well wishers after a mass in Tacloban. (MNS photo)

Pope Francis wears a plastic poncho as he waves to well wishers after a mass in Tacloban. (MNS photo)

TACLOBAN CITY, Jan 17 (Mabuhay) – The Lord is with you.

Pope Francis in his Mass here at the Daniel Romualdez International Airport on Saturday consoled victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

“Jesus understands because he also underwent all the trials you have also underwent,” the Pope said in Spanish. “Jesus never lets you down.”

Speaking through a translator, the Pope “spoke from his heart” during his homily, sympathizing with thousands of teary-eyed Yolanda survivors and saying that while they have lost so much, Jesus will never abandon them.

“Let us look to the Christ on the cross. He understands us because he endured everything. Let us look to our Mother, Mary, and like that little child, let us grab hold of her mantle, and with a true heart, say, ‘Mother,’” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis, who is in the Philippines for a five-day apostolic and state visit, shared with Yolanda victims how he was moved to go to Leyte after witnessing the catastrophe of the super typhoon, which battered central Philippines in 2013.

“I’d like to tell you something close to my heart. When I saw from Rome the catastrophe, I felt that I had to be here, and on those very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you. And though late, I have to say, I am here. I come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. and He never lets us down,” Pope Francis said, as members of the audience were seen wiping tears from their eyes.

Leyte province, particularly Tacloban and Palo, was among the areas badly hit when Yolanda lashed Central Visayas in November 2013, with millions left homeless and desperate.

On the other hand, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the Visayas, particularly Bohol, on Oct. 15, 2013, leaving 222 dead and many historical churches destroyed.

Jesus’ trials

Speaking in Spanish, Pope Francis also compared the suffering of Yolanda victims to Jesus’ trials and suffering as savior of the Christian world.

“Jesus was similarly tested in every way yet lived without sin. Jesus is like us,” he said, explaining that all of the trials that the faithful endure have been experienced by Jesus.

“Because he is 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 or experience a cross, he passed there before us,” he said.

Pope Francis also rallied the Yolanda survivors, saying their faith should not waver because Jesus has been faithful to them and to all.

“And if today we find ourselves, 14 months precisely after the Typhoon Yolanda hit, it is because we have the security of knowing we are not going to weaken in our faith, because Jesus has been there before us. In his passion he assumed all our pain,” he said.

‘No words’

While his homily clearly touched the multitudes gathered in Tacloban, Pope Francis admitted that he is at a loss for words for the victims. Instead, the pontiff enjoined those gathered in the Mass to pray silently to their brother Jesus, and to his mother, Mary.

“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. And I 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 from his heart from the cross,” he said.

“I have no more words to tell 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 is His mother. We are like this little child, just there,” Pope Francis added, after which he invited those gathered to pray in silence.

Pope Francis then again reminded the faithful that Jesus will not let them 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 would say that and I respect those sentiments, but Jesus 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 calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you,” he said.

The Mass was open to the public, and among the languages used in various parts were English, Filipino, Latin, Binisaya, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon.

The Pope arrived here amid inclement weather, as Leyte, along with along with six other areas in the Visayas, was placed under public Storm Signal Number 2 early Saturday morning.

Pope’s itinerary

Thousands of pilgrims in the area have been waiting for him since Friday afternoon, eager for even a slight glimpse of him.

After the Mass, the Pope will travel in an open vehicle to the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo, where he will have a private lunch with around 30 survivors of super typhoon Yolanda and the magnitude-7.2 earthquake in Visayas.

Of the 30 survivors, 15 are from Leyte, and five each from Eastern Samar, Calbayog, and Tagbilaran.

After lunch, the Pope will then bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor near the Archbishop’s residence. At the center, he will interact with orphans, elderly, and some people with disabilities.

The facility, which was constructed on June 2014 and cost P30 million, has a chapel, a clinic, an orphanage, and a home for the elderly.

After the visit, the Pope will then proceed to the Palo Cathedral, where he will meet with priests, religious men and women, seminarians and survivors’ families.

Before leaving the vicinity, the Pope will say a prayer and light a candle at the mass grave at the back of the cathedral.

After the activities, he will then return to the airport in an open vehicle. (MNS)