Gracias Santo Padre!
In Tacloban, Holy Father, your voice pierced through the rains and strong winds. From your heart you intoned, Gracias!, looking up to the dark skies but clearly to heaven, and your gaze moving from the people patiently standing in the rain, to the image of the Blessed Mother tenderly holding the baby Jesus in her arms. Gracias!
You thanked the Lord for not leaving us orphans amidst desperation, loss, misery and pain. And at that moment we were one with you in your thanksgiving to God. But we were also lifting up our own gratitude to God for sending you to us. We know that you, too, will not leave us orphans. That you will be with us, suffering with us who are poor, aged, sick, disabled, deaf, crippled, abandoned and ignored.
Gracias Santo Padre for your tenderness as you comforted us and reassured us that Jesus will never abandon us.
Gracias Santo Padre for your warm smile that also came from your eyes, penetrating our heart, even our soul. How easily your smile came when you caught sight of the people jubilantly gathered to greet you in the streets, especially, unmindful of the heat, and in Tacloban and Palo, unmindful of the rain and wind. How spontaneously did your face brighten at the sight of the young people and the children whom you embraced and carried in your arms.
Gracias Santo Padre for personally showing us the face of mercy and compassion; the human face of Jesus Christ, the joy of the Good News in your words.
Gracias Santo Padre! We will never forget these five days. Our children and their children will never forget these five days, because we will tell them the stories of these five grace-filled days and they will tell them to their children. Your words in our stories will be imbedded in our and their hearts; a constant reminder of the love of Jesus; a voice pricking our conscience: love the poor, always have hope amidst trials, keep faith in the Lord, and pray, always pray. It is the voice of Jesus telling us, I am with you and I will not leave you orphans.
Gracias! Gracias! Thank you!
Salamat po! Pope Francis sa pagbisita sa amin. Mahal ka namin! Salamat!
+Socrates B. Villegas
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan