'Pope speechless after hearing survivors' stories'

By Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 17 2015 08:43 PM | Updated as of Jan 18 2015 10:21 AM

Pope Francis, in a rain poncho, leads the mass near the Tacloban airport on Saturday. Storms greeted Francis when he arrived in Tacloban to pray for the dead and comfort survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the country's worst natural disaster. Photo by Stefano Rellandini, Reuters

MANILA – Pope Francis was reduced to silence upon hearing the stories of those who lost loved ones due to Typhoon Yolanda and the Bohol earthquake, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said on Saturday.

After celebrating Mass attended by around 200,000 people in an open field near Tacloban airport, Pope Francis visited the archbishop’s residence in Bgy. Arado in Palo, Leyte, to have lunch with 30 survivors of the typhoon and the 7.2-magnitude quake that struck Visayas in 2013.

Tagle said the meeting was an “intimate encounter,” which left Pope Francis speechless.

“He was suffering. When I asked him, ‘Do you want to say a few words before we go?’ He said, ‘But what can we say?’” Tagle said in a press conference Saturday night.

“The silence of someone before this mystery of suffering. I thought he would repeat his central message of his homily, but before these 30 persons, he too was reduced to silence—the communion and solidarity that happens in silence,” he added.

In his homily, the Pope spoke from the heart in his native Spanish and set aside his prepared homily in English.

“I’d like to tell you something close to my heart. When I saw from Rome that catastrophe I had to be here. And on those very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you – a little bit late, but I’m here. I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down,” the Pope told the hundreds of thousands in attendance despite the rain.

Tagle said on the flight back to Manila, Pope Francis shared to him that his trip to Tacloban had been a learning experience.

“[Pope Francis] said, ‘This visit is really for me. I’m learning.’ That’s how to be a pastor—you learn and you never stop learning. You bring it to your heart and you reflect on it on the light of the word of God,” he said.