Pontiff urges families to be ‘sanctuaries of respect for life’ in speech at Philippines rally
Pope Francis issued a condemnation of liberal views on sexuality and birth control on Friday, telling an audience in the Philippines that today’s families were under threat from efforts to “redefine family” and a culture that lacked “openness to life”.
In advance of a vast rally on Sunday that could draw as many as 6 million people, the pope called on families to be “sanctuaries for respect for life”, and praised the church for maintaining its opposition to modern birth control, even if all Catholics could not live by such rules.
“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” he said.
The Argentinian pope said that an “ideological colonisation” was trying to destroy the family, a phrase that was seen as reference to the passage of gay marriage rights in countries around the world and other liberal views.
“It is the wish of every Filipino to see him, and if possible, to interact with him, talk to him,” said Alberto Garcia, a 59-year-old electrician who was among a crowd of about 100 people who gathered in front of a giant screen mounted on a truck at a public square to watch the pope take mass on Friday.
“Because that is impossible, just by being here we can take part in his mission to visit and bring grace to this country.”
The pope’s five-day visit to Asia’s most populous Catholic nation has generated superlatives and hyperbole in equal measure. As many as 1 million people lined his route from the airport on Thursday. Mobile phone reception was jammed as a security precaution.
Sunday’s rally in Rizal park could draw a record papal crowd if, as expected, it eclipses the 5 million who turned out to see John Paul II in 1995. So intense is the security effort that traffic police have reportedly been issued with adult nappies to ensure that nothing deflects them from their task.
The remarks were seen as a direct response to a health law that was signed in the Philippines in 2013 by President Benigno Aquino.
The legislation, which was opposed by local Catholic officials, established sex education for schoolchildren and adults and also subsidised birth control for women.
Earlier in the day, a meeting between the pontiff and the president at the presidential palace included a striking criticism of local church officials by Aquino as Pope Francis looked on. The president accused the officials of remaining silent in the face of abuses by former political administrations.
“Some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means finding something to criticise, even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin,” Aquino said, according to a report in the New York Times.
It was a reference to remarks made by an archbishop who, in 2012, recommended that the balding president wear a wig.
On Saturday, the pope is due to fly to the island of Leyte, which was devastated by a typhoon in 2013. The pope returns to Rome on Monday.