When a Pope visits the Philippines, he draws some six to seven million Filipinos for the final Mass at the Luneta — larger than anywhere else in the world. Pope Francis drew a crowd of up to seven million people, the largest ever for a papal event.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said the Office of the President told the Vatican that between six and seven million attended the Mass in Manila’s Rizal Park and surrounding areas. “We are not able to count all these people, obviously, or to verify this, but in any case, we have seen so many people that we believe that it is possible,” Lombardi shared with reporters.
“If this is true — and we think it is — this is the largest event in the history of the Popes,” he said, noting that an earlier pope, Pope John Paul, drew some five million to the same area in 1995.
With the terrible motor traffic in Manila, the threat of ill-willed elements, plus the rains — how do authorities, both Church and government, manage to pull off such an event?
Faced with tremendous logistical problems, they can never hope to field enough Portalets, nor enough plastic ponchos to ward off the rain – but they can count on an army of first-aid volunteers to be on the ready. It is a demonstration of group dynamics at its best.
Wearing a transparent yellow poncho over his white cassock, the Pope was driven through the ecstatic crowd in a “popemobile” modified from a jeepney, the most popular mode of transport in the Philippines which is based on a U.S. military vehicle used in World War II.
He stopped often along the route to kiss children and bless religious statues on the day the Philippines celebrates the feast of the infant Jesus. The faithful, also wearing ponchos, held up rosaries in a forest of uplifted arms as he passed by.
Some people had waited all night for gates to open at dawn.
Traditional Life-long Devotions
Without the drawing power of a Pope – how do Catholic crowds rate?
The Procession of the Black Nazarene – on January 9 at Quiapo Church in Manila – draws some two million devotees. The Black Nazarene is a life-sized statue of Christ, carried through town by barefooted men yelling, “Viva Señor, while huge crowdd try to touch the statue. The statue was bought by a priest from Mexico and brought to Manila in 1606. Since 1787 the statue has been housed at Quiapo.
Huge crowds attend in the hope of being able to touch the statue, or its processional carriage, in the hopes of bringing good luck to themselves.
Local media reported that – at its height — the throngs reach an estimated five million people at its height. Because of the crowds, the procession, which is some 6.7 km long, takes around 20 hours to complete. The procession is expected to return to the statue’s home base, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, at around midnight local time.◘
Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro