An aerial view of Rizal Park showing millions of people attending Pope Francis’ final mass in Manila Sunday. Pope Francis will be flying back to Rome January 19 to end the 2nd leg of his apostolic tour in Asia. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Air Force
MANILA – Millions of Catholics stood in the rain for hours in Manila on Sunday in what could be the largest Papal gathering in history.
Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi said that based on estimates he has received, around 6 million to 7 million people gathered to show their devotion to Pope Francis.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Quirino Grandstand in front of more than 3 million devotees, with millions more filling the streets to catch a glimpse of the Pope in his trip from the Apostolic Nunciature to Luneta Park.
“We have seen so many people that we believe it is possible that this is the largest event of the history of the Pope,” Lombardi said in a press conference Sunday night.
The Mass, that lasted for two hours, ended in a festive vibe despite the rains.
“It was a wonderful celebration. I have to say it was very well prepared and the music was wonderful,” said Lombardi.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said the Pope himself was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who went out to give praise.
“He was mesmerized. He kept asking, ‘How many people are here?’” Tagle said.
“He said, ‘I cannot fathom the faith of simple people.’ It’s really not about him, he was very attentive and he has this capacity to marvel and be touched by the faith of the people.”
Pope Francis decided to visit the Philippines after he heard of the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda in Visayas in 2013.
The Philippines is the largest Catholic country in Asia, and the faithful proved their devotion during the Pope’s visit to Manila and Tacloban.
During the Pope’s transit to and from the Apostolic Nunciature to attend to his commitments, thousands lined up on the streets just to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father.
“The way that the Pope has been received has been marvelous and extraordinary. The Pope was very touched, and the numbers were incredible, and in a sense the entire nation was here around the Pope. The Pope has appreciated this very, very much,” said Lombardi.
Before visiting the Philippines, Pope Francis made a stop in Sri Lanka for a two–day visit.
“I think Asia was waiting for the visit of the Pope—20 years here and 15 years in India—but it was time to come for the Pope,” said Lombardi.
The pope's five-day visit to the Philippines will end on Monday, January 19.