Their truth is theirs to believe in
Being non-Catholic, I was not as thrilled spirituality-wise with the Pope's visit last January.
Many Filipinos braved crowds and waited hours just to get a glimpse of the man they call Holy Father. I still find it interesting that back then people said they were overwhelmed and moved to tears when he passed by.
One believer said on social media that it felt like "nilukuban ka ng Ispirtu Santo (you were filled with the Holy Spirit)," as the Argentine pontiff whizzed by in his jeepney-styled popemobile.
But when I think about the many devout Catholics of this country who cling to their faith to make things better, the thousands of typhoon victims surpassing their struggles because they believe in and draw strength from their religious beliefs, suddenly Pope Francis, his presence in Tacloban, and his many stops in Manila become more important for me.
Apparently, regardless of my personal beliefs, his visit did matter to a lot of people. Their truth is theirs to believe in.
The oddity of it all
It seemed odd to me when my superiors instructed us to treat our respective assignments for Pope Francis' state and pastoral visit like it was our own beat, i.e. the issues, sectors, and/or institutions we cover on a daily basis.
That meant churning out stories containing usable information to minimize foreseeable harm for the millions who would troop to the venues of his talks and sermons.
It also meant listening as much as I could to people who didn't think the way I did.
These are people whose lives circled around – and whose actions were driven by – their Catholic faith.
Assigned to cover the Pope's encounter with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas, I talked to young Thomasians about what they thought about this rockstar of a Pope.
Most of them saw him as a symbol of hope, of love, of the brand of Catholicism their church should aspire to.
Their truth is theirs to believe in. (READ: The irresponsibility of rabbits)
Influencers like Pope Francis generate a great deal of news. Whether they like it or not, their actions matter.
There is no doubt about Francis' tremendous reach. He has a following of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. His words are given much weight by many, and his appeal transcends religious boundaries.
With millions heeding his call, each move he makes and word he utters could translate to the world becoming a better or alternatively a worse place.
While I personally detest the kind of influence Pope Francis wields (seemingly coming from a system that homogenizes people's beliefs), I have no control over those who genuinely choose to believe him and the Catholic Church.
Again, their truth is theirs to believe in. After all, such beliefs were honed mostly due to structures I and many others were born into.
This, of course, does not mean we let go of our responsibility to question. (READ: 3 in 5 priests live in a material world)
It just means that we understand that global influence matters in a world where people's actions and daily choices are shaped by the men, women, and institutions that influence them.
Influencers are newsmakers whether they like it or not, and perhaps more importantly, whether I like it or not.
"Be healthy," our editor told us when we were preparing for the papal visit.
"Welcome the Pope," she said. "Your belief or non-belief should not get in the way of a good coverage." – Rappler.com