MANILA — Pope Francis has called for strengthening of the family, noting this is essential in bringing forth renewal of society.
The Pontiff highlighted the need for such strengthening as he pointed out the family isn’t merely society’s basic unit but is a major contributor to its development and transformation.
“It’s in the family that children are taught sound values, ideals and genuine concern for others,” he said in a speech delivered in English during a courtesy call on Friday at the Philippines’ presidential palace Malacanang where he addressed government officials and members of the diplomatic corps in Manila.
He raised urgency for action, saying one challenge that countries face is building a modern society that’s respectful of human values.
Such society must be “ready to confront new and complex political, ethical questions,” he said.
Pope Francis’ engagement at Malacanang kicked off the series of activities he’ll undertake while in the country until Jan. 19.
From Malacanang, he proceeded to the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros where he celebrated Mass amidst members of the clergy.
His final activity for Friday is an encounter with families at the Mall of Asia Arena, also in Metro Manila, said the Vatican.
The Pope considers such encounter as among the highlights of his visit to predominantly Catholic Philippines.
Pope Francis stepped on Philippine soil for the first time late Thursday afternoon, delighting thousands who waited for hours to get a glimpse of His Holiness.
Government and church officials led well-wishers who welcomed him at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City where the Pontiff’s plane landed.
The Pope is visiting the Philippines to further spread his message of mercy and compassion.
He flew to Manila from Sri Lanka where he earlier canonized Joseph Vaz, that country’s first saint.
During his speech at Malacanang, Pope Francis expressed admiration for Filipinos’ ability to face adversity.
He particularly lauded survivors of typhoon ‘Yolanda'(international name ‘Haiyan’) and other natural hazards for their capability to deal with their situation.
“I admire the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of disasters and many others,” he said.
According to the Vatican, Pope Francis will spend Saturday in Leyte province to celebrate Mass, have lunch with ‘Yolanda’ survivors and bless a facility named in his honor.
Leyte is among the areas ‘Yolanda’ ravaged in November 2013.
While in Leyte, the Vatican said the Pope will also meet with priests, consecrated persons, seminarians and other ‘Yolanda’ survivors before returning to Metro Manila on the same day.
“This visit is meant to express my closeness to brothers and sisters who endured suffering, loss and devastation caused by Yolanda,” the Pope said in his speech at Malacanang.
Before returning to Rome on Monday, the Vatican said Pope Francis will spend Sunday in Manila at the University of Santo Tomas to meet with religious leaders and the youth as well as at Rizal Park to celebrate Mass.