pope-francis-leaves-philippines MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis concluded his  five-day state and apostolic visit to the Philippines on  Monday as he left for Rome, Italy.

The Philippine Airlines flight that carried Pope    Francis left the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City around  10:12 a.m.

The pope is scheduled to arrive at the airport of  Rome at 5:40 p.m. (12:40 a.m. Manila time).

Thousands of cheering people lined the streets of Manila one more time to try to see Francis during his final motorcade before his flight.

Standing in the bed of a white converted pickup truck, the pope waved to the crowd as his vehicle moved fairly rapidly through the cleared streets on a sunny morning.

President Benigno Aquino III led government and Church officials in giving a send-off ceremony to the pontiff while the crowd, which included children, chanted his name and performed songs and dances.

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The pope dedicated his first trip to the Philippines to the poor and marginal. In a speech after a meeting with Aquino on Friday, he denounced the corruption that has robbed the poor of a dignified life.

He also visited street children and traveled to Tacloban, Leyte on Saturday to offer prayers for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda, the deadly 2013 storm that devastated one of the Philippines’ poorest regions.

Earlier Sunday, Francis drew a huge crowd to the University of Santo Tomas, where he came close to tears himself hearing two rescued street children speak of their lives growing up poor and abandoned.

On Sunday, he officiated his final mass here at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, which drew a record crowd of six million.

Francis dedicated the final homily of his week-long Asia trip, which began in Sri Lanka, to children, given that the Mass fell on an important feast day honoring the infant Jesus.

His focus was a reflection of the importance that the Vatican places on Asia as the future of the church since it’s one of the few places where Catholic numbers are growing — and on the Philippines as the largest Catholic nation in the region.

“We need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected,” Francis said in his homily. “And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to a life on the streets.” -with AP


Source: http://www.philstar.com

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