news Monday, March 09, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | January 19, 2015 | 7:50 am IST

Pope Francis wrapped up his trip to the Philippines on Sunday, with a Mass in the capital Manila, which was attended by six to seven million people despite steady rain throughout the day.

According to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, if the figures provided by the Filipino government were correct, Sunday's ceremony was the largest such event ever held in the history of papal travels.

This would mean that the Filipino faithful would have broken the previous record set at a Mass offered by Pope John Paul II at the same site in Manila in 1995, where some five million people were present.

Since Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people have been waiting in the vicinity of the Rizal Park and spent the night amid temperatures below 20 degree Celsius (70 degree Fahreinheit), which people were not accustomed to in the tropical Philippines.

Shortly before the ceremony, both the park and the nearby streets were jammed with people wearing yellow raincoats, the same colour as the one Pope Francis wore at times during his trip.

Also deployed in the area were 25,000 police officers to monitor the public and prevent stampedes, one of the great fears of the Manila authorities around the ceremony.

"Where do these people get the energy? They're happy and enthusiastic," asked the pontiff on Sunday after the Mass as millions of Filipinos continued chanting his name and waving and cheering, despite the rain, when he passed by along the capital's roadways in the locally-designed 'popemobile', Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said.

A 1,000-member chorus and an orchestra of 120 musicians provided music for the ceremony, which lasted two hours, and the singing was performed in several regional languages spoken in the Philippines with the aim of reflecting the country's diverse cultures.

The fervour of Filipino Catholics was acknowledged by the Pope in his homily, as he recalled that the Philippines was the largest Catholic nation in Asia, saying "this is a special gift, a blessing, but also a vocation".

He also urged Filipinos "to be the great missionaries of the faith in Asia".

The Pope had been in the Philippines since Jan 15 and had earlier spent two days in Sri Lanka.

On the last day of his activities in the Philippines, the Pope met young people at the St. Thomas University.

The pontiff is scheduled to depart for Rome on Monday.

With IANS

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