Storm forces Pope Francis to shorten Leyte visit
MANILA, Philippines (7th UPDATE) – Pope Francis cut short his trip to Leyte Saturday, January 17, due to Tropical Storm Amang (Mekkhala), which is bearing down on Eastern Visayas.
"There's a typhoon that is around us, and the pilots of the airplane have insisted that we have to leave at 1pm. After 1 pm the typhoon will get much worse. I apologize to you all," the Pope told priests and nuns assembled at the Palo Cathedral at past noon.
"I'm truly saddened because I had something prepared especially for you but let us leave everything in the hands of our Lady," he said.
The Philippine Airlines plane carrying the pontiff departed Tacloban's Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport at exactly 1:07 pm, as rain and winds buffeted the city.
"Ang schedule sa Leyte ay iiklian. 'Yong kanyang return is at 1 pm this afternoon," Interior Secretary Mar Roxas earlier told a press conference in Manila. (The schedule in Leyte will be shortened. His return [to Manila] is at 1 pm this afternoon.)
"This is not because of a security threat, but because of the weather," Roxas said.
He said it was the Vatican's decision to cut the trip short.
Meanwhile, the final decision on the Pope's schedule here in Manila once he returns will be made by the papal visit committee, led by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, according to Fr Jose Quilongquilong, who is assisting Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi here in the Philippines.
Tagle is also accompanying the pontiff in Leyte.
On radio dzMM back in Manila, National Capital Region Police Office Police Director Carmelo Valmoria said police have been deployed to their designated places along the papal motorcade route earlier than scheduled.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang said one more battalion has been deployed to secure the pope, while a disaster response team has been sent to the region in anticipation of the storm.
Earlier, the papal entourage left Manila for Tacloban an hour early, as the storm threatens the region. (See: Amang hits Samar; Metro Manila now under storm signal.)
Based on his original schedule, he will attend the blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo and then hold a meeting with priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, and families of Yolanda survivors at the Palo Cathedral. – Rappler.com
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