Millions Gather for Pope's Mass in Manila
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Filipinos estimated in the millions gathered to join Pope Francis in a religious service in Manila, as the leader of Catholic Church winds down his five-day Philippine visit.
Francis met with tens of thousands of youth in the Philippine capital, amid heavy rain early on Sunday, before he headed to the largest park in Manila for the afternoon Mass.
Church leaders were predicting that as many as six million people would attend the event; city officials, however, estimated about three million people were at the scene, as heavy rains brought by storm, Mekkhala, dampened the estimates.
Still, thousands of faithful clad in plastic raincoats, or carrying umbrellas, continued to stream to Luneta, the same park where Pope John Paul II held a Mass in 1995.
That event 20 years ago attracted five million worshippers, and remains in the record books as the largest Catholic gathering in the modern times.
As early as Saturday evening, worshippers hoping to get spots nearest to the pope were already camped out at the park.
Despite government advisory not to bring the elderly and children, many disregarded it.
Security have been placed on heightened alert on the duration of the pope's visit.
During his speech to the crowd in Manila, Francis again addressed the issue of preserving traditional family.
"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."
Last year, the Philippine government passed a law on artificial birth control. There are also proposals to pass a divorce law. Both issues are strongly opposed by the Catholic Church.
The Philippines and the Vatican are the only two countries that prohibit divorce.