Pope Francis interacts with members of the crowd during a meeting with some 16,000 people in Manila on Friday (Photo by Joe Torres)
Pope Francis on Friday warned against what he labeled "threats to the family" including materialism, culture of the ephemeral and a lack of openness to life.
The pontiff made the statement before some 16,000 Filipinos who attended a meeting between families and the pope on the evening of his second day in the Philippines.
"The pressures on family life today are many," Pope Francis said, adding that in the Philippines, "the economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems".
At the meeting, Ediza Pumarada, whose husband works abroad, described to the pontiff some of the difficulties she faces as a single mother.
"Our separation, only three years after our marriage, brought me feelings of anxiety and uncertainty," Pumarada said, adding that the psychological and emotional burdens were "difficult to bear".
She said that to raise a daughter and assume both the roles of father and mother had been “a real challenge".
"Keeping our loving relationship and our trust for each other, in spite of our separation, was even more challenging," Pumarada said of her marriage.
An estimated 15 million Filipino workers are employed in over 230 countries, according to the migrants' group Migrante.
On the papal flight to Manila on Thursday, Pope Francis recalled how he had admired Filipino workers during a feast at the Vatican last December.
"I was looking at the Filipino employees, how they have left their country, looked for a better life, leaving behind father and mother, children," the pope said.
Materialism and destructive lifestyles
During his meeting with the families on Friday, Pope Francis noted that while many people in the Philippines live in dire poverty, "others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life".
"The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life," the pope said.
"Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats," Pope Francis told the ecstatic crowd, adding that "every threat to the family is a threat to society itself".
"Protect your families," he said. "See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments," Pope Francis said.
He called for respect for life and the proclamation of the "sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death".
The pontiff called on Filipino families to also be mindful of the call to be "missionary disciples of Jesus" and be ready to go beyond your homes and to care for our brothers and sisters who are most in need".
"I ask you especially to show concern for those who do not have a family of their own, in particular those who are elderly and children without parents. Never let them feel isolated, alone and abandoned," said the pope.