Francis tells youth to ensure women's role in society

Notes small number of women at his meeting with students at Pontifical University of Santo Tomas
Francis tells youth to ensure women's role in society

Pope Francis greets some 100,000 young people who gathered at the University of Santo Tomas in Manilaon on Sunday (Photo by Joe Torres)

Pope Francis on Sunday emphasized the important role of women in society in his address before thousands of Filipino young people in Manila.

"Women have much to tell us in today's society," the pontiff told a gathering of about 100,000 young people at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. 

He noted that "there's a very small representation of girls" at the gathering. "Sometimes we are too 'machistas (macho)' and we don't allow enough space to women," he said.

"Women can see things from a different angle to us, with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions we men are unable to understand," he told the crowd.

In a speech before an Italian women's group a year ago this week, Pope Francis insisted that women take on greater responsibilities in the Church and in society.

The pontiff lauded "the indispensable contribution of women in society, in particular with their sensitivity and intuition toward the other, the weak and the unprotected." 

Since he became head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the role of women both inside and outside the Church, but has been silent about the possibility of ordaining women as priests.

In his speech on Sunday, the pontiff noted that a girl named Gyzelle Palomar, a street child who was one of those given the chance to ask the pope a question during the meeting was "the only who has put a question for which there is no answer".

Palomar told the pope about her experience as an abandoned child and the story of children like her who got into drugs and prostitution.

"Why does God allow bad things to happen to us when it's not our fault? Why do a few people help us?" asked the girl as she sobbed.

"She couldn't put it into words but expressed it with tears," the pope said. "So when the next pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls," said the pontiff.

Pope Francis opened his address to young people by remembering Kristel Mae Padasas, 27, a Catholic Relief Services volunteer who was killed on Saturday after the pontiff's Mass in Tacloban. 

The pontiff asked the crowd to pray in silence for the soul of Padasas and for her mother, who is coming home from Hong Kong to bury her.

For the third time during his visit to the Philippines, the pontiff departed from his prepared English speech and spoke in Spanish.

"When I speak spontaneously, I do it in Spanish, because I don't know the English language," he said.

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The pontiff then challenged the youth to "think well, feel well, do well" amid a wave of information brought about by technology. 

Tens of thousands gathered at the Catholic university, to see and listen to Pope Francis, the third pope to visit Asia’s oldest university. He acknowledged the youth who shared their testimonies on stage, noting how one of them spoke about information technology.

“With so many means of information we are overloaded with information,” he said, adding that it is "not necessarily bad. "It is good and can help," he said but added that there is "a real danger of living in a wave of accumulation of information".

"We have so much information. But maybe we don’t know what to do with that information. We run the risk of becoming a museum of young people that has everything but without knowing what to do with them,” said Pope Francis.

Additional reporting by Rappler

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