Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 

MANILA, Philippines — Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to hundreds of impoverished street children at a shelter in the Philippines on Friday. The pontiff made the unscheduled stop at the Blessed Charles de Foucauld shelter in the capital Manila, just round the corner from the cathedral where he held mass in the morning.

"The children were hoping to catch a glimpse of him and were so excited they didn't sleep all night," said Alexandra Chapeleau, a French volunteer at the shelter. "Then half an hour before the mass ended Vatican security came to tell us the pope would come. We told the children, and they looked stunned," Chapeleau told NBC News.

Image: Alvin Atis
Alvin Atis in Manila was thrilled to meet the pope on Friday.Claudio Lavanga / NBC News

Pope Francis was in the city as part as a five-day visit to the Philippines. On seeing the pontiff enter the shelter, 10-year-old Alvin Atis could not contain his excitement and rushed to greet him with a hug. "I have never met such a kind pope," he said. "I am so happy." Another child, 6-year-old Sheryl Caparas, was still brimming with excitement hours after the pope left. "He told us that if we are happy, we are happy," she told NBC News.

Image: Pope Francis is pictured with youths at ANAK-Tnk foundation during his pastoral visit in Manila
Children at the Blessed Charles de Foucauld shelter in Manila were treated to a surprise papal visit on Friday.OSSERVATORE ROMANO via Reuters

"The pope stayed 10 minutes and told them they are not alone because Jesus loves them," shelter director Matthieu Dauchez said. "This is very important to them. Here in Manila it is not unusual to see children sleep among the garbage. This is what the pope's visit and words mean to them, that they are not garbage."


- Claudio Lavanga