Super Typhoon Yolanda Survivors Reach out to Pope Francis

Pope Francis in the Philippines

WEATHER – One of the sad realities of modern media is that coverage moves quickly from one lead story to the next. The traditional news cycle often leaves stories behind after covering them.

A tour of New Orleans shows that many parts of that city remain empty even now after Hurricane Katrina.

In the Pacific, Typhoon Yolanda tore through regions of the Philippines. The visit of Pope Francis to the Asian country was scheduled to include a tour of the area. However storms shortened the visit of the Pontiff.

A group looking for help says, “For thousands of Eastern Visayans, majority of them survivors not only of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) but of the recent string of typhoon disasters as well, the encounter with Pope Francis was for only a split second as the Pope mobile sped by. But beyond that fraction in time, we survivors have so much to be thankful for”.

“When the Holy Father demonstrated determination in overcoming the threat of Typhoon Amang (Mekkhala) just so the shepherd ‘could smell of his sheep’, we truly felt Pope Francis’ mercy and compassion. We deeply appreciated each and every sincere, comforting and uplifting word—and silence—that he shared with us, something that even the highest of authorities in our nation could not give us over a year after Yolanda levelled our communities”.

In Pope Francis’ undelivered speech to Yolanda survivors, never before did we see such words of solidarity as asking for “the poor throughout this country to be treated fairly – that their dignity be respected, that political and economic policies be just and inclusive, that opportunities for employment and education be developed, and that obstacles to the delivery of social services be removed.”

For the longest time, we the poor have been squarely faulted for our abject plight, that we should be just thankful that at least we’re still alive, and that we are villains for desperately looting for food, water, and possible sources of income to get us through the disquieting days ahead. It is our conviction that for the Holy Father to ask on behalf of us for a deeper understanding and solidarity for our predicament is justice served, in itself, to the countless of survivors that continue to be victimized to date.

As Pope Francis prepares to leave the Philippines today, we are ardently anticipating the release of his Encyclical on Climate Change and Human Ecology. For most of us Yolanda survivors, we are only beginning to understand and grapple with the realities of global warming and climate change even as we are already facing its deadly impacts. May the teachings of the Holy Father help inspire action to our fellow children of the storm to claim climate justice and ensure the stewardship of all creation.

We fervently hoped we would be able to meet the Pope, even for just a minute—but to no avail. We heard in the news how our fellow Yolanda survivors shared stories of pain, suffering, and hopelessness when Pope Francis broke bread with them over lunch. But there is still much to hear and see in Typhoon Yolanda’s ground zero, as there is much to feel as well—righteous anger and a hopeful determination for justice.

In the same spirit of bayanihan that our fellow Filipinos demonstrated during the aftermath of Yolanda, we ask the public once again to pray and take action with us on two things.

First, help us reach out to Cardinal Tagle in ensuring that His Eminence would be able to give to Pope Francis the open letter of Yolanda survivors that our convener Sr. Edita Eslopor, OSB was able to hand to him during the Holy Father’s brief meeting with the religious in Palo Cathedral.

Second, help us spread the message across the Philippines and all over the world by visiting and widely sharing, where a short film paints a million words on the plight and appeal of Yolanda survivors can be viewed and shared directly to Pope Francis on Facebook and Twitter. This, hopefully, would make up for the time lost by the Holy Father that could have been spent in having a deeper understanding of our situation.

We know this will not be the last time that we will be embraced in the loving presence of the Holy Father. With this knowledge, we will have the strength to carry on. From Yolanda ground zero, with much adoration and inspiration, salamat Pope Francis!#

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