POPE Francis on Sunday consoled the family and friends of Kristel Padasas, the 27-year-old typhoon-Yolanda aid worker from the Catholic Relief Society (CRS) who died in an accident shortly after the pope celebrated Mass before 200,000 pilgrims in Tacloban airport Saturday.
“I would like all of you, young like her, to pray in a moment of silence with me…Let us also pray for her parents. She was the only daughter…She worked for the organization and in the preparation for that very Mass. She was 27 years old. Young like yourselves,” the Pope told the youth gathering at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila Sunday.
Padasas died when she was hit by metal scaffolding knocked loose by strong winds brought by tropical storm Amang, shortly after the pope left the airport on a motorcade to the nearby town of Palo.
“Today Catholic Relief Services grieves the loss of our staff, 27-year-old Kristel Padasas of Manila. Kristel passed away on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, when she was struck by scaffolding at the site of the papal mass in Tacloban shortly after Pope Francis departed.
“Kristel was based in Samar and worked on a recovery project for typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Her dedication to the people affected by the typhoon extended beyond her official work with CRS. She traveled a great distance to volunteer at today’s papal mass and to remember the victims of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda,” said the Catholic Relief Services in a statement.
“CRS Philippines mourns this loss along with her friends, family and loved ones. Her colleagues remember her as someone who loved to laugh and who was always ready to assist outside her normal duties. She found great joy in being able to contribute to the recovery effort by
working directly with communities and families. Our deepest prayers are with Kristel’s family and loved ones,” CRS said.
Despite the accident and the changes of schedule of papal activities in Tacloban and Palo in Leyte, the Archdiocese of Palo expressed gratitude for the pope’s visit to Leyte.
“Whatever happened we are still grateful that Pope Francis has visited us. This typhoon, though it shortened the Pope’s time spent with us, is considered a blessing,” said Fr. Amadeo Alvero, spokesman of the Palo Archdiocese.
“Our faith in God and our church has strengthened. Thank you, Pope Francis, you are our conduit to God. We believe you and love you,” Alvero said.
Manila Archbishop Antonio Luis Cardinal Tagle asked all the Filipinos to pray for the soul of Kristel.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that right after pope learned about her death, he ordered them to find out who and where her family lived, and to find ways to extend support to them.
In a separate interview, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) media director Monsignor Pedro Quitorio assured the family that the Archdiocese of Palo or the CRS would cover Padasas’ funeral and other expenses.
On Saturday, Pope Francis and his entourage were forced to cut short their stay in Tacloban and Palo by four hours, flying out at 1 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. because of the approaching storm.
On Friday night, the pilot of the aircraft called the papal entourage to advise them of the storm, but the pope refused to cancel his trip, Lombardi said.
“I have come to the Philippines to be in Tacloban, I have anticipated any [eventualities or disasters] we have to fly there in any case,” Lombardi quoted the pope as saying.
The pope also turned down a suggestion to hold the Mass in the cathedral because of the rain, saying this would be unfair to the people who waited for him outside.
“The decision to come to the Philippines, it was his decision to experience the suffering of the victims of the typhoon,” Lombardi added.
At a press briefing Saturday night, Tagle said the pope felt pain and suffered when he heard the stories of Yolanda survivors who lost parents, children or friends.