16 January 2015
President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed His Holiness Pope Francis in Malacañan Palace on the second day of the pontiff’s State Visit and Apostolic Journey to the Philippines.
During the welcome ceremony, a 21-gun salute was dedicated to the visiting pope and the national anthems of both the Philippines and the Vatican were played.
Accompanied by President Aquino, Pope Francis signed the official guestbook at the Reception Hall. The leader of the Roman Catholic church wrote, “On the President and the people of this beloved land of the Philippines, thank Almighty God’s abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace. – Francis.”
The two leaders then proceeded to the President’s Hall for a courtesy call and photo opportunity followed by their private tete-a-tete. Afterwards, they headed to the Rizal Hall for a meeting with civil authorities and members of the diplomatic corps.
In his statement, Pope Francis expressed his admiration for the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by Filipinos in times of crisis. He challenged everyone to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources set for the poor and to make concerted effors for the inclusion of every man, woman and child in the life of the community.
For his part, President Aquino thanked Pope Francis for his blessings and welcomed him to the Philippines. He called the pontiff a “kindred spirit” since he is not afraid to ask the question “Why not?” in his quest to give an authentic service for a true community of the faithful.
Also, the President expressed his respect to Lolo Kiko, a monicker given to the pontiff by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, for his role as a unifying and revitalizing voice, not just among Catholics, but also among all peoples of goodwill.
“In the fight to transform society, one cannot help but be heartened by the fact that we are not alone. When we tread this path with people such as yourself, along with the millions you have inspired, we gain the courage to do what needs doing, the optimism to dream about what we can achieve in unity with one another, and the opportunity to turn that dream into a shared reality, with the grace of Almighty God. The Filipino people, in whose name I welcome you today, ask your blessing; may we find more mercy and compassion in our lives,” President Aquino said.
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