Friday, 29 August 2014

#PopeFrancisInKorea: "I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane..."

"I'm leaving on a jet plane...don't know when I'll be back again."

I was imagining Pope Francis humming that song when he was on his way to the Seoul Air Base, where his jet plane for Rome was waiting last Monday afternoon.

His visit to Korea was the most memorable of any foreign leader in recent times. It's not surprising why; Pope Francis is not your ordinary foreign leader. 

That Monday morning when he left, it was raining. I guess even the skies, like most Koreans, were sad to see him go. And even while he was celebrating his last Holy Mass at the Myeongdong Cathedral, people waiting outside the cathedral grounds were wearing raincoats and had their umbrellas open.  

They were there to say good-bye, too. They waited for him until he emerged from the Cathedral and rode his black compact car surrounded by his bodyguards.

Just as it was in all of the places and events he attended in Korea, security was tight. That morning, the police blocked off the main Myeongdong street leading to the Cathedral. And the only spot where people could have the last glimpse of His Holiness was at the footsteps of the Cathedral and on the coffee shops right in front. 

From the Cathedral grounds, his motorcade would pass through that highway that leads to the Namsan Tunnel 1. And that's where some people waited to see him. Well, some people, and then one more. Ha-ha-ha!

It was noon time and drizzling. The highway was lined with policemen wearing neon green raincoats. But unlike the attendance at the beatification mass a couple of days earlier, this time, there were just a handful of people along the street waiting for Pope Francis to pass. 

We immediately knew his motorcade was about to pass when, suddenly, our side of the street became eerily empty and a few seconds later, the police motorcycles with their lights blinking came into view. A few meters back, a lone black car followed and voila!  Two black compact cars came rolling down the wet highway. These compact cars had the Vatican flags on their hoods dancing in the wind and waving as if also to say good-bye.

Some people in the crowd called out his name and waved upon seeing the second compact car with its right window open and a hand sticking out waving to everyone standing on the street. As there was just a handful of us waiting for him, I realized Pope Francis waved at me, too! Although it was a wave of good-bye, it was a papal wave just the same!

Seconds later, his car and the rest of his motorcade were gone and everyone in the crowd was smiling, knowing that we have just seen the Pope!

I have now seen the last three popes. In 1995, I saw Pope John Paul II when he was in Manila. In 2010, I saw Pope Benedict XIV in Rome, and this day, Pope Francis! Although, he's also visiting the Philippines in January 2015, I don't think I'd be able to see him there.

So today, it's "Arrivederci, Pope Francis!" I hope I'd be able to see you again in Rome someday.
           (Pope Francis in his black compact car waving 
                        through the right side widow)                             

                        (Pope Francis waving from his car. 
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