Pope Francis now in MOA to meet with families

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - Pope Francis arrived at the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) arena in Pasay City at 5:17 pm on Friday, January 16, to meet with Filipino families, his first intimate encounter with diverse groups of Filipinos since he arrived on Thursday, January 15. 

Tens of thousands lined up along his route from the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila to MOA, cheering, waving flags and showing placards that said: “We love you, Lolo Kiko!”

The crowd outside MOA got so close to Francis' popemobile that a child was brought to his vehicle for a kiss.

It took him awhile to get inside the arena due to the huge crowd outside. Upon entering the arena, the Pope was met by the members of the Sy family led by Mrs Felicidad Sy, wife of business tycoon Henry Sy. The Sys own MOA.

The arena has a maximum capacity of 20,000 people. (READ: Fast Facts MOA)

The Pope smiled and appeared overwhelmed upon seeing the cheering crowd.

It's a diverse group inside the arena – families in traditional tribal garb, groups of young priests-in-training, and members of different Christian organizations. The Pope stopped to bless and greet the sick and the elderly.

During the meeting, the Philippines’ different languages and regions will also take center stage, with intercessory prayers in Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Hiligaynon, Waray and Bikolano.

The Friday, January 16 meeting with families comes a few months after the Pope convened in October 2014 an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” (READ: The Filipino family the Pope will meet)

The Pope will hear the testimonies of several families about their experiences with poverty, migration and disability.

Church officials from the Philippines had earlier identified these as 3 of the 4 pressing issues faced by families in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. 

The Pope will hear the testimonies of several families about their experiences with poverty, migration and disability. Their meeting begins at 5:30 pm. – Rappler.com