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Luneta crowd grows, all hope to see Pope Francis

David Lozada
Luneta crowd grows, all hope to see Pope Francis
Despite the large crowd assembled at Luneta all hoping to see Pope Francis, individual devotees say they are happy to be there, whether or not they see the pontiff
MANILA, Philippines – Marlon Hernandez and his wife sit by the pavement amid the thousands of people seated in Luneta Park, waiting for Pope Francis’ concluding mass. The couple from Taytay, Rizal has been in the area before dawn just to get a glimpse of the Argentinian pontiff.


“I hope we get to see Pope Francis. We were already in front earlier but they didn’t allow us to enter,” Marlon said.


Marlon said he’s willing to cut across the crowd just to see Pope Francis; but added that he won’t feel bad if they do not see him.


“Just the fact that he’s here in the Philippines is already a big blessing. We’ll still feel blessed by his visit. We’re not planning to go home. When he’s about to arrive, we’ll do everything we can just to be near him,” he said.


GETTING READY. Marlon and Rachel Hernandez wait along a pavement in Luneta Park for Pope Francis’ arrival. Photo by David Lozada/ Rappler

Marlon’s wife Rachel does not share his enthusiasm. She said she may not even hear his message due to the growing crowd.


“I don’t think we’ll see Pope Francis in person because there’s so many people. We’ll still be happy since we always see him on TV. We’re members of Couples for Christ so his message will reach us regardless,” Rachel said.


More people expected


Pope Francis will deliver his last message to Filipino Catholics in the concluding mass of his pastoral visit at 3:00 pm Sunday, January 18. For some devotees, this may be the last time to meet the Pope.


Authorities expect at least 6 million people to flock to Luneta during the momentous occasion. The Quirino Grandstand can only accommodate 300,000. Some pilgrims camped out overnight despite a government ban.


Despite the challenges, most Catholics are still hopeful to see and hear Pope Francis’ message.


Jane Martinez and her family have been in Luneta since 6:00 am. She said she wants to see more of Pope Francis.


“We’ve been stalking him for 3 days now but we’ve only seen glimpses. Even if we only saw the top of his popemobile, we were still overwhelmed,” she said.


Jane added: “His message is really about the renewal of faith for Catholics who are losing their way. He makes you feel that he’s always with you, that he won’t leave you. You’ll be embarrassed because he’s a pope but yet he’s humble.”


‘Where’s the discipline?


Jane said she was disappointed by the behavior shown by most devotees in Luneta. This, she said, was against the essence of the pope’s visit.


“You’ll see so much trash here and some people cut the line. We all came here to sacrifice yet we lose the essence of what Pope Francis is asking from us – renewal of faith. I hope devotees will show more discipline,” Jane said.


“Where’s the sacrifice that we’re supposed to be giving?” she asked. – With a report from Ram Talabong/ Rappler.com

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