Massive Philippine crowd asked to spread gospel

2016-01-31 16:32


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Cebu - The special envoy of Pope Francis told a gathering of hundreds of thousands in the Philippines on Sunday that they had a special role to play in spreading the gospel, even to developed nations.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar was delivering a homily at the closing mass after a week-long International Eucharistic Congress.

"This nation holds great promise to the Catholic world," he told a crowd in a fenced enclosure estimated by police to number about 450 000.

Senior Superintendent Benjamin Santos, police chief of Cebu City in the central Philippines, said an even bigger number were listening outside the fence.

Bo said Catholicism faced problems of empty churches and dying vocations in other nations, and the Philippines held a unique position as the world's third-largest Catholic nation with a largely young population.

"Christianity, they say, is in a twilight zone," he said.

"Take heart, my brothers and sisters. The Philippines can take the twilight zone into an exciting dawn."

While the Philippines suffered from poverty, richer nations were facing "the destruction of the family", he warned the crowd, many of whom stood in the burning sun for two hours.

"Some countries have chosen a path to destroy families through laws," Bo told an enthusiastic crowd, adding there was "a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the survival rights of the poor to the lifestyle rights of the rich countries".

The cardinal did not specify "lifestyle rights" but the Catholic church campaigns against same-sex marriage, abortion and other practices largely legalised in Western nations.

In contrast the Philippines, which is about 80% Catholic, still outlaws abortion, same-sex marriage and even divorce.

Quoting the Bible, Bo told the crowd: "A prophet to the nations, I appoint you."

In a video message to the mass Pope Francis himself praised the deep faith of Filipinos.

"They have given the world an example of fidelity and deep devotion," the pontiff said.

He said this was "also a summons to go forth as missionaries, to bring the message of the Father's tenderness and forgiveness and mercy to every man, woman and child".

The pope recalled his successful visit to the Philippines last year, saying he found the people's faith unshaken despite natural disasters and hardship.

Over 1,200 delegates from 75 nations attended the congress, a major Catholic gathering held every four years.

Read more on:    philippines  |  vatican city  |  religion

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