MANILA, Jan. 19 (PNA) — Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Socrates Villegas told Pope Francis that his five-day Apostolic and State Visit to the country will never be forgotten by the Filipino people.

“Gracias Santo Padre! We will never forget these five days. Our children and their children will never forget these five days, because we will tell them the stories of these five grace-filled days and they will tell them to their children,” said the CBCP head in his farewell statement for Pope Francis on Monday.

The Lingayen-Dagupan prelate added, “Your words in our stories will be imbedded in our and their hearts; a constant reminder of the love of Jesus; a voice pricking our conscience: love the poor, always have hope amidst trials, keep faith in the Lord, and pray, always pray.”

He also thanked the pontiff for his genuine appreciation of the Filipinos, which was felt by everyone.

“Gracias Santo Padre for your warm smile that also came from your eyes, penetrating our heart, even our soul,” Villegas said.

The Catholic prelate added, “How easily your smile came when you caught sight of the people jubilantly gathered to greet you in the streets, especially in Metro Manila, unmindful of the heat, and in Tacloban and Palo, unmindful of the rains and winds. How spontaneously did your face brighten at the sight of the young people and the children whom you embraced and carried in your arms.”

Villegas also expressed gratitude to the Holy Father for “personally showing us the face of mercy and compassion; the human face of Jesus Christ, the joy of the Good News in your words.”

Mercy and Compassion was the theme of the papal visit in the country from Jan. 15 to 19.

Pope Francis left the country Monday morning for Rome. (PNA)SCS/FGP/EDS