MANILA, Philippines – Although outside their home country, the Overseas Filipino Workers around the globe have a special space in Pope Francis’ heart, as he pays tribute to their sacrifices in leaving their families back home in search of greener pastures.
In the homily during the Mass officiated by the Pope at the Manila Cathedral last Friday, he noted that “Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary.”
The Pope lauded all the OFWs, saying that the Filipinos’ capability to touch others’ lives comes with a great heritage, containing a powerful missionary potential.
During his courtesy call to President Benigno Aquino III at Malacañang last Friday, Pope Francis lamented in his speech that the “real contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live” is “oft neglected.”
The Pope also said that he “cannot fail to mention” the OFWs “who are often neglected and whose contributions to society are not fully appreciated”.
Last Thursday at a press conference aboard the plane that was carrying him to Manila on Thursday, Pope Francis also recalled meeting several Filipinos at Casa Santa Marta in Vatican, where he just recently officiated a mass.
“There were about 50 of them. I stayed with them and they told me how they left their county to look for a better life, leaving behind mom, dad and children,” he said, speaking in Italian.
OFWs, as well as migrant rights advocates, are thankful for the Pope for his statements.
Garry Martinez, the chairperson Migrante International, which is an alliance of overseas Filipinos and their families, “thanked the Pope for hearing their cries, speaking in behalf of the 15 million overseas Filipinos all over the world who are being neglected, abused and exploited and abandoned by the Aquino government, as posted in Migrante International website.
“Filipinos all over the world are overjoyed and empowered to further fight for our rights and to struggle for genuine social justice so that our common endeavors may be realized,” Martinez added.
Martinez wishes that the Pope’s statement will “open new doors and networks among churches and their brethren for the promotion and protection of the rights of Filipino migrants and their families around the world.”