Progressive groups from various sectors marched to Mendiola at 7am yesterday as Pope Francis was scheduled to Meet President Aquino in Malacañang.

The said groups, led by the People’s Committee to Welcome the Pope, conducted a short program in front of the Mendiola Peace Arc. Afterwards, they trooped towards Ayala Bridge to welcome the Pope en route to Malacañang from the Manila Cathedral, but police forces barred them because of the content of the groups’ placards.

The placards and banners carried messages of welcome for Pope Francis, as well as calls such as “Pope, stand with the poor!” “Hear the cry of the poor and oppressed!” and “Resume peace talks now!”

Sector leaders attempted to persuade members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to allow them to pass, pointing out the irony that the police is preventing the Pope from seeing the people’s calls for social justice and land reform, for instance, given the Pope’s progressive stance on political issues.

Mga kapatid, nandito kami para salubungin nang buong tuwa at galak ang Santo Papa. At natutuwa kami na ang Santo Papa ay may malaking puso para sa mahihirap. Para sa kapayapaan. Itong ating mga kasama ngayon, gusto lang nilang ipaalam sa Santo Papa ang kanilang nararanasang kahirapan. ‘Yung iba galing sa iba’t ibang asyenda, walang lupa. Maraming mga manggagawa na mababa ang sahod at walang bahay sa kalunsuran. Mga migrante, mga kababaihan, at mga OFW na nagsuporta sa atin, mga kapamilya ng mga bilanggong politikal…Nananawagan kami na sana payagan ninyo kaming pumasok. Alam ko naman sa puso ninyo ito rin naman ang gusto ninyong mangyari, ‘di ba? Gusto niyo rin na wala nang mahirap sa atin, ‘di ba?” People’s Committee to Welcome the Pope convenor Fr. Ben Alforque said in his appeal to the PNP.

The police, however, under strict orders, held their ground.

Photos and text by Erika Cruz