POPE Francis yesterday celebrated mass for more than six million rain-soaked worshippers, capping his dramatic five-day visit to the Philippines with a pointed reaffirmation of the Church's conservative policies on family values.
"Sadly, in our day, the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programmes contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture," he said in his homily.
The 78-year-old pontiff was more specific than in a previous homily about family values.
He warned Catholics against falling for the "ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes" of modern life, including a consuming addiction to gadgets.
"We squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets; we squander our money on gambling and drink; we turn in on ourselves. We forget to remain focused on the things that really matter," he said.
In a homily on Saturday, he urged priests to combat forces "from outside" tearing families apart with "confusing" versions of sexuality and marriage.
He repeated that theme at a "gathering of families" later that same day.
The Vatican's spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, told a news briefing that the "outside" influence was a reference to developed nations that have allowed gay marriages, which run against Catholic doctrines.
A storm that has been battering the Philippines the past week did not stop millions from massing since midnight around an altar at a seaside grandstand.
Despite the steady downpour and bone-chilling cold air, they walked as far as 5km, waiting patiently as they kept themselves dry with ponchos and umbrellas.
Some 27,000 policemen - a few of them wearing adult diapers without their trousers - were on hand to control the crowd, which the Vatican and government said hit seven million, which would be the largest for a papal event.
Tempers frayed when long queues grew because there were not enough entry points towards the park.
By the time Pope Francis arrived at 3pm aboard a "popemobile" styled after the nation's iconic and much-loved "jeepney" minibus, euphoria again swept through the crowd.
At a youth rally earlier in the day, Pope Francis mourned a church volunteer killed during his visit to typhoon-devastated Tacloban city.
He led a moment of silence for Ms Kristel Mae Padasas, 27, who died when a steel scaffolding collapsed on her, as a storm battered Tacloban and also forced the pontiff to cut short a mercy mission to survivors of super typhoon Haiyan.
Yesterday, the Pope also waded into the global debate on climate change for a second time in his trip.
"As stewards of God's creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family.
When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling," he said in a text prepared for his homily that, although he did not read to the crowd, is considered official.
There was also a ribbing of men who are "machista", with the Pope asking men to listen to women's ideas more: "Women have much to tell us in today's society.
(We) don't allow room for women, but women are capable of seeing things with a different angle from us, with a different eye."
This article was first published on Jan 19, 2015.
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