Seeing the pope up close was “a rare life experience” for Alexis Yu and his family from the central Philippine city of Tacloban.
They went through tight security at the National Stadium in Bangkok to attend the pope’s Mass with at least 70,000 others.
Concelebrating the Holy Eucharist with the pope were 11 cardinals, 13 archbishops, 47 bishops, with hundreds of priests and nuns attending.
It was the second Mass celebrated by a pope in the same venue. The first one was celebrated by Pope St. John Paul II during his visit on May 10, 1984.
“We came here to see Pope Francis,” said Alexis who first saw the pope on Jan. 17, 2015, when the pontiff visited victims of super typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban City.
“Pope Francis inspired me so much when he visited us when we were recovering from the destruction,” said Alexis. “His presence gave us the strength to move on,” he added.
Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest in history, left at least 6,000 people dead and about 3,000 others missing in November 2013.
Across town in Bangkok early on the same day, dozens of people gathered outside the gate of St. Louis Hospital next to the Apostolic Nunciature where Pope Francis was staying.
The people had no pass for the pope’s meeting with the medical staff and patients of the hospital.
“Papa Francesco! Viva El Papa!” shouted George, an Italian expatriate in Bangkok. He was pointing his camera toward the direction of the car carrying the pope.
“I knew he’s coming,” he said. “I do not have a ticket for his hospital visit, but I was able to get a pass to the stadium for the Mass.”
George said he left the office a few blocks from the hospital to check if he could get close to the pope.
He was denied entry to the hospital but he managed to get a good spot about 15 meters from where the pope’s car passed.
“I filmed him. I will send this video back home and tell my wife that the bishop of Rome visited me here in Bangkok,” said George.
Wang Xi Ying, 28, was among a group of Chinese Catholics who met the pontiff at St. Peter’s Church in Samphran district in Nakhon Pathom province.
Wang said she was “overwhelmed” by the festive welcome the Thais gave the pope. “This is my first time to see a huge number of Catholics gathering in one place,” she said.
“This is my first time to see a pope,” Wang said, smiling. She said she feels “unrestrained” because “I can freely express myself and my faith.”
“I am happy to see that here, there is no problem,” she said. She shared that back in her country “everything about religion is controlled.”
Annie Nguyen, a 22-year-old graphic designer from Vietnam, listened as the pope delivered the homily in Spanish.
She did not understand what the pontiff was saying, which was translated into Thai. “But I am sure it is an encouraging message,” said the pilgrim from Vietnam.
“I will check the internet later if they will upload an English translation of the pope’s homily,” she said.
Nguyen joined the Vietnamese delegation “because I was intrigued by Pope Francis’ charism.” She said she wondered how the pope easily attracts people and persuades them to listen.
“I wanted to see and hear him in person because I don’t think he will visit Vietnam anytime soon,” she said.
During Pope Francis’ last night in Bangkok, Annie took a chance to see the pope for the last time.
She squeezed herself to the front of a huge crowd outside the Assumption cathedral where the pope was celebrating Mass with young people.She took her phone and started taking a video as the pontiff walked out.