Not in his itinerary: Pope meets with street children

Thea Alberto-Masakayan
Not in his itinerary: Pope meets with street children

(UPDATE) Away from public view and from the press, Pope Francis granted an impromptu invitation to meet street children.

This is the first activity where Pope Francis deviated from his Philippine itinerary. The charismatic Church leader is known to have surprise activities during his pastoral visits.

Related story: Live blog on Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines

The papal activity only became known to the public when a Jesuit priest, Antonio Spadaro, tweeted photos from the papal meet and greet Friday.

A report from Radio Vatican said the meeting took place at a home for street children run by the ANAK-Tnk charitable foundation in Manila.

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Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed the impromptu get-together and said around 320 children “celebrated his visit with songs and dance.”

The report said the meeting happened because of the help of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who has an established friendship with the pope.

Radio Vatican reports that Tagle brought at least a thousand letters and a video from the street children for Pope Francis to read in Rome October last year.

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The Manila meeting apparently took place immediately after the eucharistic celebration the pontiff led at Manila Cathedral Friday.

Spadaro said Pope Francis was accompanied by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and the duo happily entertained children. Photos also showed the pontiff embracing children.

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Spadaro writes: “A sincere embrace for Pope Francis. It’s impossible not to be moved.”

Spadaro said Pope Francis was accompanied by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and the duo happily entertained children.

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The priest also noted that the Pope spoke in Spanish and was very happy to be surrounded by the kids.