MANILA, MARCH 18, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Evelyn Macairan - Pope Francis has good wishes for Asia’s only predominantly Catholic nation.

“I have high hopes for the Philippines. May your faith prosper, as well as your devotion to Our Lady and mission to the poor,” the first Latin American pope reportedly conveyed to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

In a statement, Tagle yesterday said he had the opportunity to meet and talk with the new pope at the Vatican.

Tagle said when he approached Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, to assure him of the closeness and collaboration of the Filipinos with the Vatican, the Holy Father gave him the message to the Filipino people.

“What a compelling message from this humble man of God,” Tagle added.

Tagle also called on Filipinos to join the whole Church in thanking the Lord for giving the world an extraordinary person like Pope Francis.

Tagle expressed his gratitude to those who prayed for the cardinals during the conclave.

“I thank you for your fervent prayers for the cardinal-electors. We never felt alone even for a moment. Your love sustained us,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Jesuit community in the country said they were pleased that a fellow Jesuit became the Pontiff.

Fr. Jose Magdia, SJ, who is the provincial superior of the Society of Jesus (SJ), said, “Pope Francis has a long experience of leading God’s people in Argentina, with a heart very much concerned for the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, and whose manner of life is touched by great simplicity and faith.”

“We are grateful for his generosity and spirit of service to assume the heavy burden that goes with his office in these difficult times. We certainly pledge him our prayers and filial support, and wish him grace, wisdom and strength as he assumes this new mission,” said Magdia.

Magdia said the 76-year-old pope is a Jesuit but the spirituality of St. Ignatius was only secondary.

What is more important was “his own deep commitment to the Lord and his having remained a loyal son of Christ’s Church, giving so much of his long life to making it an instrument of truth and clarity for all,” he said.


‘Pray for me,’ Pope Francis urges at first Angelus Agence France-Presse 8:23 pm | Sunday, March 17th, 2013

[Pope Francis leads his first Angelus prayer from the window of the apartments at St. Peter’s square on Sunday at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE]

VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis appeared before some 150,000 pilgrims massed in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday for his first Angelus prayer and asked the faithful to pray for him.

“Thank you for your welcome, and for your prayers,” the first pope from Latin America said from a window of the papal apartment high above the square. “Pray for me,” he added.

Dozens of flags from Francis’ native Argentina were waving in the square, along with the Vatican’s yellow and white standard, as the former cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio recited the traditional Sunday Angelus prayer, the first of his papacy.

Flags from other Latin American nations including Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Mexico, could also be seen in the crowd.

One banner read: “Francis, You Are the Springtime of the Church”, reflecting a groundswell of hope that the choice of a humble outsider has inspired in many Catholics weary of Vatican scandal and dysfunction.

Gabriel Solis, 33, an Argentine pilgrim, spoke of his “indescribable emotion.”

“He will bring much peace because he seems more humble, more spontaneous,” he said. “He seems closer to the people. We didn’t feel that with the pope we had before.”

The Angelus has traditionally been a moment to comment on international issues, but Francis instead used the occasion to emphasize his Italian roots.

The former Buenos Aires archbishop, whose parents hailed from Italy, said he chose to name himself after St. Francis of Assisi because of his “spiritual ties with this land.”

Earlier Sunday the pope grabbed an opportunity to shake hands with well-wishers, plunging into crowds pushing against barricades outside a Vatican gate as security men and Swiss Guards stood nervously by.

Chanting “Viva Il Papa” and calling his name, the well-wishers jostled to greet the new pontiff, who has projected a common touch by breaking with many formal traditions since his surprise election to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on Wednesday.

The 76-year-old pope’s informal style is markedly different from that of his more austere 85-year-old predecessor Benedict XVI, who stunned the world last month by announcing his resignation citing his advanced age.

A million people may attend the pope’s inauguration mass on Tuesday, including world leaders who are set to begin flying into Rome on Sunday.

Among them is Argentine President Cristina Kirchner who had tense relations with Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, before his elevation to pope.

US Vice President Joe Biden was also due to arrive later Sunday.

Francis, whose Italian father was a railway worker, has already spoken to Catholic leaders about the need for spiritual renewal and evangelization and cautioned them against worldly glories, as well as calling for a “poor Church” that should be closer to ordinary people.

He warned cardinals that the Church would fall apart “like a sand castle” if it did not have a solid spiritual foundation and urged them to share their wisdom — “good wine that gets better over the years” — with young people.

At the same time, Francis has faced accusations at home that he failed at the time to speak out against brutalities committed during the years of the military junta in Argentina (1976-1983) when he was head of the country’s Jesuits.

The Vatican has firmly rejected claims that Bergoglio failed to intervene when two Jesuit priests were tortured by the dictatorship, saying the allegations were part of a leftist, anti-clerical campaign.

The Argentine judge who investigated the case, German Castelli, also came out in support of the pope on Saturday, saying that prosecutors had found that Bergoglio had “no case to answer.”

But the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo organization, founded to help locate children who were kidnapped during the military era, lambasted the new pope.

“He has never spoken of the problem of people who had disappeared under dictatorial rule,” said Estela Carlotto, the head of the group, whose daughter Laura was abducted and killed.

Francis is a moderate conservative who is unlikely to change key doctrine but experts say that he could push for more social justice and a friendlier faith.

Vatican watchers are keeping a close eye on nominations to top posts as an indication of what changes in substance his papacy could herald.

Francis will meet next Saturday with Benedict, the first pope to stand down since the Middle Ages.

The resignation brought to an abrupt end a troubled eight-year papacy that was often overshadowed by scandals including the ongoing denunciations of hushed-up sexual abuse of children by paedophile priests stretching back decades.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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