‘The message of the Holy Father is about the poor, and I love the poor,’ Imelda Marcos told reporters as she attended Pope Francis’ Mass in Tacloban

Imelda Marcos at papal Mass: I love the poor 1ALL SMILES. Former first lady Imelda Marcos is seen at the Patio Victoria Restaurant in Tacloban City a day before Pope Francis’ visit. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Controversial former First Lady Imelda Marcos attended Pope Francis’ Mass in Tacloban, a move foreign and local observers noted for its irony.

The widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos was spotted at the Tacloban airport in Leyte on Saturday morning, January 17, where Pope Francis celebrated Mass to console victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Marcos is a member of the influential Romualdez clan that has dominated Leyte politics for decades.

Vatican expert John L Allen Jr reported on the Catholic news website Crux that Marcos was present as an “ordinary pilgrim.”

“The message of the Holy Father is about the poor, and I love the poor,” Marcos told reporters.

“If more people thought like him, the country will be more united and able to grow,” she was quoted as saying.

Allen said that Mrs Marcos did not meet the popular pro-poor pope, “who was likely unaware of her presence.”

Members of the Romualdez family earlier said that Mrs Marcos planned to attend the pope’s Mass.

Now a representative of Ilocos Norte, her husband’s home province, Marcos remains controversial over human rights abuses and corruption allegations during her husband’s regime under martial law.

Mrs Marcos is infamous for her lavish lifestyle, amassing art, jewelry, clothes, and shoes in the two decades that her husband was president.

Despite the abuses attributed to the Marcoses, they remain a powerful force in Philippine politics and occupy key posts in government.

Marcos’ son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, is a senator who also attended the Pope’s Tacloban Mass. He is reportedly eyeing higher office in 2016

The pope’s visit to Leyte, particularly his homily in Tacloban, was the highlight of the pontiff’s trip to the Philippines, with Francis saying his focus is on the poor. (READ: Full text of Pope Francis’ homily in Tacloban)

The most powerful storm to hit land, Yolanda devastated Leyte and the rest of Eastern Visayas on November 8, 2013, killing over 6,000 and leaving millions homeless and jobless.

In spontaneous, moving words, Francis empathized with the pain of Yolanda survivors, who lost loved ones, homes, jobs and property to the monster typhoon.

Francis said to the victims: “’Father,’ you might say to me, ‘I was let down because I’ve lost so many things, my house, my livelihood.’ I respect those sentiments. But Jesus there [pointing to a cross at the makeshift stage] was nailed to the cross and from there he does not let us down.”

“Many of you lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. Many have asked, why, Lord?” He said: “All I can do is keep silent.”

Due to the storm, Francis cut short his Leyte trip by 4 hours and returned to Manila Saturday afternoon. –