Pope Francis: Huge crowds gather in Manila for Mass
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.”
Before the final mass, the Pope has been holding morning meetings with religious leaders and young people at the University of Santo Tomas which is the biggest Catholic university in Asia.
The Vatican had said that it was expecting crowds of around 30,000 young people at the university.
On Saturday, the Pope visited the city of Tacloban, which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan just over a year ago.
The Pope said as soon as he saw the catastrophe caused by the typhoon, he had decided to go to the Philippines.
He was due to have lunch with survivors of the disaster but was forced to cut short his trip due to a tropical storm.
Before he left for Manila, the Pope held an outdoor mass for about 150,000 worshippers amid strong winds and pouring rains.
During the Mass, the Pope spoke of the terrible impact of Typhoon Haiyan.
He told the faithful that “so many of you in Tacloban have lost everything. I don’t know what to say – but the Lord does… He underwent so many of the trials that you do”.
A 27-year-old woman who attended the Mass was later killed after she was hit by scaffolding, police said.
Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi said the Pope had asked about how he could show “his own suffering and solidarity” with the woman’s family.
Typhoon Haiyan, which remains the strongest storm ever recorded on land, created a 7m (23ft) high storm surge, destroying practically everything in its path when it swept ashore on 8 November 2013.
More than 14.5 million people were affected in six regions and 44 provinces. About one million people remain homeless.
A national holiday has been declared in the capital for the duration of the Pope’s visit.