Philippine president says his faith is stronger since pope’s visit

By Simone Orendain

MANILA — Philippine President Benigno Aquino said his Catholic faith is stronger and remains so, nine months after Pope Francis visited his country.

Aquino was a guest Oct. 27 at a two-hour forum in Manila with Philippine-based foreign correspondents who asked him a wide range of questions.

Pope Francis arrives in the rain at the cathedral in Palo, Philippines, Jan. 17. Fourteen months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the central Philippines, the pope braved a tropical storm to encourage survivors in their ongoing work of recovery. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope Francis arrives in the rain at the cathedral in Palo, Philippines, Jan. 17. Fourteen months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the central Philippines, the pope braved a tropical storm to encourage survivors in their ongoing work of recovery. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

“There is so much simplicity in the pope,” said Aquino. “Even (with) the vestments that keep on flying into … his face, that doesn’t seem to faze him. That carrying of that small bag, by himself, at his age.”

Aquino remarked on the fact that 78-year-old pontiff appearing fatigued, yet still toted his black briefcase at the end of a packed five-day visit to the Philippines in January.

Pope Francis came with the express purpose of showing solidarity with the survivors of the November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing. The typhoon kicked up 15-foot storm surges that slammed shores of the east central part of the country and generated 295-mile per hour winds that cut a path of destruction across the middle of the country.

Aquino said he could see the impact the pope was having on the church, which he said was playing a more active role “in worldly matters, not just (being) a church that mouths the nice things, but actually engages everybody into tackling the problems of the day.”

Aquino, who in 2011 said he was willing to be excommunicated over a controversial reproductive health law that he pushed hard to get passed in Congress, said, “Even my own faith has really been strengthened and renewed that there is a church that is not just talking but actually walking the talk.”

Simone Orendain and Philippine President Benigno Aquino pose for a selfie in Manila. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

Simone Orendain and Philippine President Benigno Aquino pose for a selfie in Manila. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

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Follow Orendain on Twitter: @sorendainnews.

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