A tide of emotion washed over the sea of Catholics in Luneta Park when Pope Francis arrived on Sunday afternoon.
The head of Manila’s planning agency said six million turned out to see the pope, surpassing the previous world record for a papal gathering of five million during a mass by John Paul II at the same venue in 1995, ABS-CBN News reported.
According to local officials some 6 million people have gathered at the Luneta Park and surrounding areas for Pope Francis’ final Mass.
Pope Francis made an exhilarating entrance to a Manila bayside park for the mass aboard a “popemobile” that was styled after the nation’s iconic, flamboyant and much-loved “jeepney” minibus.
The overall mood was festive, with the crowd cheering and chanting the Pontiff’s name. The man who made Leyte weep, in both gratitude and the memory of grief, arrived at the historic landmark at 2:36 p.m.
About 25 million Filipinos, or one quarter of the population, live on the equivalent of 60 cents a day or less, according to government data.
Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the Philippines coincides with the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1995, which drew around five million people–said to be the largest single gathering of Christians in history–during his Mass on World Youth Day.
The Mass on Sunday is expected to rival and even break the record of the 1995 event.
Since he arrived in the Philippines on Thursday, Pope Francis has been winning over Filipinos with his heartfelt speeches, as well as decisions to break security protocol to be with the people. On Friday, he left Manila Cathedral with Tagle to visit an orphanage housing street children, and on Saturday, he left Manila early to reach Tacloban before the storm hit the province.