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    On several occasions during his visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis has scrapped prepared English-language texts and spoken off-the-cuff in his native Spanish. Could that be a sign of things to come for his September visit to the U.S.?

    The pontiff’s tour in Asia, which started Monday in Sri Lanka and finishes tomorrow when he leaves for Rome from Manila, is the second time the Argentine pope has given a series of speeches in English. In August in South Korea, his public remarks were almost entirely in English. In Sri Lanka and the Philippines, he was meant to give all of his speeches in the language.

    The pope, whose ancestors are from northern Italy, speaks fluent, albeit accented, Italian, the language in which the vast majority of his public appearances are held. He admits openly that English is not his strength.

    “My English is poor!” he said at an appearance earlier this week. Nonetheless, he has given his speeches in clear, heavily-accented English. When he signed the guest book at the Presidential Palace in Manila on Friday, he used a cheat sheet to write his dedication in English.

    However, the pontiff, who is wildly popular in the Philippines, has clearly felt constrained by his English. On three separate occasions, he scrapped prepared remarks to deliver heartfelt speeches in Spanish, aided by a young priest who masterfully provided English-language interpretation for the crowd. In Tacloban, for instance, he gave an emotional homily, recalling the suffering of the local population from the 2013 typhoon.

    “When the pope is in particularly moving, intense situations, he prefers to adlib,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi at a briefing Saturday evening.
    As a native Spanish speaker, the Italian the Pope speaks on a daily basis is no doubt an exceptionally easy language to master. English... not so much. I say good on him for trying. English is widely spoken in the Philippines, and a fun fact is that Spanish used to be until around 40 years ago.
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