MANILA - Pope Francis on Friday urged Catholic leaders in the Philippines to resist powerful forces that are tempting youth with "confusing" versions of sexuality, marriage and the family.
The 78-year-old pontiff delivered his message in a sermon to priests and nuns in the centuries-old Manila Cathedral, on the first full day of a trip to the Catholic Church's Asian stronghold.
The pope urged them to counsel young people, who may be confused and despondent living in a corrupt society, on traditional values.
"Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family," Francis said.
"As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God's plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture."
His comments come amid a struggle in the Philippine Catholic Church between a conservative hierarchy and many followers living lives more in line with some modern Western values.
Aside from the Vatican itself, the Philippines is the only state in the world where divorce is illegal, while abortion and same-sex unions are also banned.
However the Church in 2012 lost a 15-year battle on birth control, as Congress passed a law allowing the state to hand out free contraceptives and teach family planning at schools.
Hundreds of thousands of Catholics also have illegal abortions each year, while many are pursuing live-in relationships without marrying.
Many Filipinos had hoped a visit by Francis, seen by many as being a surprisingly bold reformer, would nudge Philippine Church leaders away from some of the their most conservative positions on social issues.
Francis received a rapturous welcome when he arrived in the Philippines on Thursday for a five-day visit that is part of the Catholic Church's drive to attract more followers in Asia.
The Philippines is the Church's bastion in Asia, with Catholics making up 80 per cent of the former Spanish colony's 100 million people.