The striking points from the Pope's Manila Cathedral homily: exercising love in service, being present to the people, and having love in one's service to be a good shepherd
MANILA, Philippines – It’s a sight you don’t get to see every Sunday: priests on the other side of the altar, their phones out and up in the air – because it’s not every Sunday that they get to attend a Mass celebrated by the Pope himself.
Cheers and claps greeted Pope Francis as he entered the Manila Cathedral on Friday, January 16, for his first Mass in the Philippines. Outside the basilica, the hundreds crowding Plaza Roma chanted “Viva il Papa!” as they watched the event unfold through LED screens.
“We burst in jubilation, people were clapping their hands…. When he was entering the door, I was moved to tears because the kind of charisma he brings, [it’s] something very powerful,” Father Eric Escandor, a newly-ordained Jesuit priest, said, describing the moment the priests inside the Cathedral first saw the Pope in the flesh.
The Mass was Francis’ 2nd public outing of the day, and his first liturgical encounter with Filipino clergy. His homily to the 2,000 priests, bishops, and religious individuals assembled there was also his first message to the leaders of the local Catholic Church – an institution that has and remains an influential force in Philippine society.
Francis has been known to deliver critical speeches directed at senior Church leaders – he once listed the Vatican’s “spiritual ailments” in a Christmas message – and Escandor said he was expecting a similar critical tone in his Manila homily.
“I was kind of expecting that he was going to be critical in this Mass, but he talked like a lolo (grandfather), and the serene way of expressing his thoughts really inspired me,” Escandor said. “I think it’s a great way to start the year.”
Francis’ homily bears similarities to the speech he delivered before government officials in Malacañang Palace. The pontiff stressed a recurring theme in his speeches – helping the poor – and urged both the government and the Philippine Catholic Church to solve the “scandalous inequalities” in society.
Escandor said 3 messages stood out for him from the Pope’s homily: exercising love in service, being present to the people, and having love in one’s service to be a good shepherd.
“Service should come from love, and being present to the people – that’s what he’s doing in the Philippines, at this time when we are experiencing a lot of things,” Escandor said.
He also expressed hope that the Pope’s visit would usher in a “time of renewal” for priests and religious individuals.
The Pope says that you have to have love in order to be a good shepherd and a good pastor. I think that’s something very relevant for us [priests] and we hope that this is really a time of renewal for us,” Escandor said.
The young priest, who has been assigned to work with high school students in Cagayan de Oro, said he hopes to bring the Pope’s message of exercising love in service from Manila to his community.
“The Pope is really embodying what he’s saying and doing. He doesn’t just make me feel awed by his presence. He makes me want to act, to do something very concrete,” he said.
Escandor said Francis was the unique brand of pontiff who drew from the legacy of his predecessors and crafted his own brand of leadership that combined “the action of John Paul II and the insight of Benedict XVI.”
The end result? “He makes Christ very palpable.” – Rappler.com