7 million faithful get drenched at open-air mass in the Philippines

by Staff, |
Well-wishers wait for the arrival of Pope Francis prior to an open-air Mass in Manila Jan. 18, 2015. | REUTERS/Paul Barke

MANILA (Christian Examiner) -- Pope Francis ended his Asian tour Sunday in the Philippines with an open-air mass for a rain-drenched crowd of about 7 million, making it the largest papal event in history, according to reports. The Pope reminded the crowd packed into Rizal Park and the surrounding areas to be committed to the poor and downtrodden.

The Pope said in his homily to reject "social structures which perpetuate poverty, ignorance and corruption," which is especially relevant in the Philippines, where the United Nations says 1.2 million children live on the streets.

The 78-year-old pontiff, clad in a transparent canary-colored rain poncho over his white cassock, also took aim at the country's government, who has pushed population control measures. He said that the family is being threatened by "insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred."

The park opened at 6 a.m. local time Jan. 18, about three hours before the Pope was due to deliver his speech, though many parishioners were camped outside before then, BBC reported.

The Catholic leader ended his weeklong trip through Asia in the Philippines, which has over 80 million Catholics, according to Reuters. Earlier in the week he visited Sri Lanka, which is Buddhist in its majority. While there he facilitated ethnic harmony between the Sinhalese and other minorities which have had tense relations for years.

He also canonized Joseph Vaz, Sri Lanka's first saint, for his role in revitalizing the Catholic Church during the dark days of Christian persecution in the 17th century.