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Pope Francis gives hugs, kisses to children in MalacaAang.

MANILA -- Eleven lucky children received kisses and blessings from Pope Francis on Monday morning as he made his way into MalacaAang Palace.

The children, including the son of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, were presented to the pontiff as he walked along a red carpet with President Benigno Aquino III.

Pope Francis, perhaps still reeling from his visit to Sri Lanka the day before, looked a bit tired and subdued. His face lit up though when he saw the crowd of Palace employees and relatives of government officials waiting along the red carpet leading into MalacaAang Palace.

The "Pope of Surprises" followed the protocol set by the Presidential Security Group (PSG) though he seemed to have wanted to approach the people.

At one point, however, one of his Swiss Guard escorts allowed a woman a member of the PSG to bring her baby to the Pope.

Pope Francis blessed the baby, causing the people inside Rizal Hall to collectively say "aww" while watching the live feed.

This act emboldened the other children to approach the pontiff. Many of them were carried by the Swiss Guards to allow the Pope to kiss their heads without bending too much.

One boy couldn't help but shake the pontiff's hand repeatedly, while another one basked in the attention, giddy at the Pope's act of touching his head. The boy could not help but touch his own head and smile at the crowd.

It was Purisima, however, who caught the attention of the Rizal Hall crowd some of which were relatives of government officials.

Out of nowhere, Purisima took his chance and presented his baby, who was wearing a white shirt and blue shorts, to Pope Francis. The pontiff gamely blessed the child. Needless to say, the Secretary was all smiles as he walked away.

The Pope himself had a wide smile on his face by the time he reached the lobby of MalacaAang where he was given a cold towel and drink after walking under the sun.

On Thursday, Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi said that the Pope draws his energy from the people.

"(He is) inspired by the faith of the people present. In this sense, he has new energy," he said of the Pope, just hours after he was received by thousands of people that filled the streets from the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City to the Apostolic Nunciature in Taft Avenue in Manila.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jan 16, 2015
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