The government, security officials and the Vatican on Monday described the just-ended visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines as an unqualified success and thanked the people for cooperating with the authorities to ensure that nothing untoward happened during the pontiff’s stay.
“For us, the biggest factor was the cooperation of the people themselves,” said Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. “All the efforts of the government would have been for naught if the people did not unite.”
“We thank our countrymen for their solidarity in ensuring the safety of the pope,” another Malacanang spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, was quoted in a statement posted in the Official Gazette as saying. “We recognize the dedication of various Church groups... and the millions who participated in the various activities.”
The military, the police and the papal nuncio, the Vatican City’s diplomatic representative in the Philippines, echoed the palace’s statements.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang and Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director Leonardo Espina also praised the citizenry for cooperating to make the pope’s five-day visit a success.
Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto also thanked the Filipino people and the authorities for a successful visit by the pope. “Thank you, in the name of Pope Francis,” Pinto said in a radio interview.
President Benigno Aquino III, meanwhile, said the government will reassess the security preparations made during the pope’s visit, to identify which measures will need to be “fine-tuned” for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit of 21world leaders, who will come to Manila in November.
“We want to identify the lessons learned and what can be fine-tuned especially since we are hosting the Apec [meeting],” Aquino said in an interview after the pope’s airplane, dubbed Shepherd One, left Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.
Aquino reported that the pope repeatedly expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome he received from Filipinos during his state and apostolic visit, which ended Monday.
“He was very happy with the hospitality [shown by] Filipinos. He said he really felt the warmth of the people,” Aquino said.
Pope Francis left for Rome at about 10:12 a.m. Monday on a chartered Philippine Airlines flight, capping a hectic five-day visit to Asia’s largest Catholic country.
Coloma also commended members of the country’s security forces, who worked, even in bad weather, to maintain order and ensure the pope’s safety.
Aquino said 25,000 military and police personnel were deployed to secure Pope Francis and the public.
Lacierda also thanked the media for relaying information to the people and the country’s telecommunications companies for their cooperation. Cellular telephone service was suspended in many areas of Metro Manila upon orders of the government during the visit, supposedly to ensure the safety of the pope.
Espina said that starting today, the police will lower their alert status from full alert to normal. He explained that except for minor hitches, all security preparations were implemented without a hitch, despite serious challenges.
“The mammoth crowd at the Luneta [where Pope Francis celebrated mass for upwards of six million people last Sunday] had to be filtered through 75 security control and screening points put up around the Rizal Park and Quirino Grandstand,” Espina said, citing one example.
In the joint statement issued by the armed forces issued by Catapang said the military “would like to thank our countrymen for their invaluable cooperation and excellent conduct.”
“We truly have every reason to be proud of the fact that we came together as one nation in warmly hosting the beloved Pontiff,” Catapang added.
The PNP noted that it recorded only 14 criminal offenses during the pope’s visit, which included that of a narcotics agent who was arrested for violating the prohibition on the carrying of firearms in gun-free zones and travel routes of Pope Francis.
A photographer, identified as Michael Sy Yu, 35, was also arrested on Saturday for violating the ban on flying drones in the airspace over Roxas Boulevard in Manila.
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