Last January, Pope Francis visited the Philippines. It was a huge thing especially for a country whose population is more than 85% Roman Catholics. The whole country was pretty much excited and overwhelmed. In the weeks leading up to the visit, you could see several posters lining up the Pope's supposed route, welcoming him. Every Sunday mass (or maybe every mass) would have a few minutes dedicated to "spiritually preparing" you for the Pope's visit. I'm going to be completely honest: I'm a Roman Catholic on paper but I don't really, 100%, identify myself with the faith.
There's a lot of things about this religion that I don't really know, understand or identify with. Living in a predominantly Catholic country, you would see people do just about anything to profess their faith (or something like that) and the accompanying news reports about devotees replicating the crucifixion of Christ or someone dying from a stampede during a religious procession. For many reasons, Catholicism always threw me off. During the papal visit, I saw a lot of people literally and figuratively do just about anything to get a glimpse of Pope Francis. They would wait for hours under the pouring rain just to *hopefully* snap a photo of the Pope or see him with their own eyes.
In my head, I'm asking... why?
So, I did a little bit of self-reflection and came up with my own conclusion: It's not so much about seeing the Pope as it is about seeing what he symbolizes. I won't go into detail about this but it inspired me to re-do this layout that I made for his visit. Just for documentation, I will be copying what I wrote in my journaling for this layout.
I'm not someone who one would call religious but I do firmly believe that I am spiritual - regardless of the religion, I believe that someone / something greater than me is up there looking over me + guiding me. This is why, even though I'm not a devout Roman Catholic, I was deeply inspired, moved and motivated by Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines.
Rather than regarding Pope Francis as the head of the Catholic Church, I see him as a symbol of everything that I have learned and understood about being a man for others, the human dignity and the structured oppression that is prevalent in the Philippines.
This is why I love this photo so freakin' much.
It features a pope that is happy albeit tired, a pope that is humbled by everyone who look up to him. It's a photo of a pope who is filed with joy and gratitude to be one with the suffering people. For him, it's not just about the scripture or the doctrine or the Church's teachings - it's goes way beyond than that. Fundamentally, it's about the suffering people and the action that you take towards uplifting their lives.
To think. To feel. To do. And all in harmony.
This line from his homily struck me the most. At the very simplest terms, he was able to tell us what is asked of us, what we are called to do. To think about the things that make people suffer unjustifiably, to feel their pain, their hope and their happiness, and to do something about it. All in harmony, not just one or two but all together.
Thank you very much, Pope Francis.
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