Huge crowds gather in Manila to see Pope Francis celebrate an outdoor Mass

(BBC) – Huge crowds have gathered to see Pope Francis celebrate an outdoor Mass in the Philippine capital Manila.

Thousands of people arrived at Rizal Park on Sunday morning, hours before the Mass is due to begin. Twenty years ago, more than five million people attended a Mass celebrated here by Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican said Pope Francis would dedicate the service in part to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the country in 2013. The Mass will be the Pope’s final full day in the Philippines, where there are 80 million Catholics, concluding his six-day tour of Asia.

Philippine officials have estimated that as many as six million people may attend the Mass on Sunday afternoon, according to local media.

Some people camped outside the park overnight to be the first ones admitted when the gates opened early on Sunday morning. “We are devotees of the Pope,” Bernie Nacario told AFP news agency among the crowds in Manila.

“The Pope is an instrument of the Lord and if you are able to communicate with him, it is just like talking to God himself.”

Pope Francis opened his meeting with over 20,000 students by remembering the 27-year-old woman who had died during his visit to Tacloban. Earlier, police had reported that she had been killed when scaffolding collapsed after Saturday’s Mass.

The Pope then listened to several children speak about their experiences of growing up on the streets. One of the children, 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar, wept as she told her story and asked why God had allowed it to happen.

A visibly moved Pope Francis replied: “Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question.” He added that the world needed to learn how to cry with those in need. “Those on the margins cry. Those who have fallen by the wayside cry. Those who are discarded cry. But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don’t know how to cry,” he said.

Pope Francis said that there was also a need to listen to women and girls in society.

“Women have much to tell us.”

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