Rain falls as Pope Francis walks past a statue of Mary and the Christ child as he celebrates Mass adjacent to the airport in Tacloban, Philippines, Jan. 17. CNS photo/Malacanang photo bureau handout via EPA

Typhoon survivors grateful Pope braved tropical storm for Mass

By  Simone Orendain, Catholic News Service
  • January 18, 2015

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Among more than 100,000 people who braved an approaching tropical storm and waited long hours to attend Mass with Pope Francis Jan. 17 were survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

John Tumama, 18, was shivering after being on the grounds near Tacloban airport for almost 18 hours.

Between fits of chattering, he told Catholic News Service, "It was touching ... because ... he came all the way here just to show, he c-, just, just to show that he cared for us."

Tumama said his family in Tacloban lost everything when Haiyan's tsunami-like storm surges swept through. He and his college classmates went to the Mass together and said it was well worth the wait.

A classmate, Jude Vencent Morado, swam to safety during the typhoon. He is a biomedical sciences major and was busy doing schoolwork when the storm struck and he got separated from his family.

"My heart was pounding about my parents, my family, because I was far from them. ... It was extremely hard and difficult to think, how are they (doing over) there," he told CNS at the Mass site. "So the message of the Pope really inspires me. It brings back the message to do what God wants, (which is) to reflect on ourselves and go back to the Lord."

Pope Francis urged the faithful to look to Jesus, telling them: "He is the Lord. He understands us because he suffered through many tests that we ourselves have suffered." At times the wind was so strong it sounded like thunder coming through the Pope's microphone.

After Haiyan, Nilda Jamora got two large gashes on her leg after she was slammed into a canal by floods from a 15-foot storm surge.

"It was very touching, and I've been crying even without the words yet," Jamora said after the Mass. "Just (Pope Francis) getting out of the plane and when he passed through with the motorcade in this area ... I've been crying because of his presence in spite of this bad weather."

Some of the country's Cabinet secretaries attended the Mass, and Sonny Coloma, secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, told CNS the Pope's appearance was by "divine design."

"I think the rain, the cold, the challenge of an ongoing typhoon really made it more meaningful," he said. "Because everyone that stood there, everyone that stayed really wanted to make it happen and the key person in this event, the bringer of glad tidings, also wanted to make it happen. That's why it happened."

The Mass was celebrated in Tacloban, which took the brunt of Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as it was known in the Philippines. The storm left 7,300 dead or missing, destroyed 1.1 million houses and left millions jobless.

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