When Pope Francis said this in reply to a child’s question on why God allowed children to suffer, people caught it and hung on to it—the Vicar of Christ professed not to know the answer.
People took it as a sign of the utmost humility of the Pontiff. Here was a most revered leader admitting to not knowing the answer in the age of the Internet and social media, where and when everybody has an answer to everything.
“I didn’t know such a man could still exist in this day and age,” said one of my incredulous friends of the Pontiff’s admission of mortal vulnerability in the face of great suffering.
“He is such a great contrast to the know-it-alls on Facebook and Twitter.”
Pope Francis has given messages that everybody could connect to, one way or the other. It was as if he was talking only to you. He has shown how a leader not only inspires and gives hope, in the reality of hopelessness, but also has empathy for anyone.
Indeed, he has shown many human moments for us to keep.
A piece of trivia: It was said that the Pope didn’t travel with a passport this time, or at least he didn’t have it on him. It is accepted practice for heads of state, royalty and world leaders not to show travel documents, especially if they are traveling on a private aircraft or chartered flight, and their purpose of travel is well known, in this case, an apostolic and state visit to the Philippines.
It must have been one interesting chore for our Immigration to inquire about the travel documents of His Holiness.
Another trivia is—people who got to see him up close had noticed how Pope Francis preferred a handshake to people kissing his ring or hand. He didn’t extend his hand automatically to be kissed. Instead he would extend it in a handshake.
This was most apparent even upon his departure, as he shook the hands of some of the top officials seeing him off.
Upon his departure, it was said, he requested the presence, at the airport, of Argentine Ambassador to the Philippines Roberto Sebastian Bosh Estevez, and exchanged a few words with him in their native tongue.
As people witnessed in almost all his appearances, he preferred to speak in Spanish every time he decided to discard his prepared speech and to instead speak extemporaneously, speaking out his mind or uttering words from the heart.
In private, it was said, his face would light up every time he’d espy anyone in the room who spoke in Spanish. He must have felt at home instantly upon his arrival when Chief of Protocol Cookie Feria greeted and welcomed him on the plane in Spanish. (Feria was posted in Madrid for 10 years and thus spoke Spanish.)
What was most interesting was how the people, especially those who lined the streets, behaved before the Pontiff. They didn’t breach security. Even taking selfies took a back seat when in his near presence, because usually, people were so moved that they would rather soak in the special moment, instead of tinkering with their phone-cameras.
“As his popemobile passed before us, I put down my phone and just took in the sight of him,” said a friend who waited for hours on the street to catch a glimpse of the Pontiff.
“I was just happy to be in the same room as him. I just wanted to bask in the solemnity of the moment. I didn’t have to trail him around the room,” said another friend who was invited to a papal appearance.
Indeed, there is social etiquette or decorum one must observe when in the presence of important personages, particularly royalty or heads of state or the Prince of the Church. Such as:
One doesn’t just walk up to the person and strike small talk. One waits to be acknowledged.
One has to keep a respectful distance dictated by protocol. In short, one doesn’t grab the hand of the person in a handshake or, in the case of Pope Francis, make a dash to the hand to kiss it even when it was not extended. (Believe it or not, the latter happened.) The VIP has to extend his or her hand first, or to address a guest first.
Such a lapse in good manners was the only unholy sight in our otherwise very holy week.