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Pope pillories Philippine poverty

January 16, 2015

Pope Francis has called for an end to the "scandalous social inequalities" in the Philippines during his stop in Manila. The pontiff is spending five days in the country, home to an estimated 80 million Roman Catholics.

Papst in Manila 16.01.2015
Image: Reuters/R. Egagamao

Pope Francis urged the government in Manila to reject corruption and instead work towards ending poverty in the Catholic Church's Asian bastion.

"It is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good," Francis said at the presidential palace, in his first speech since arriving in the Philippines on Thursday.

He challenged "everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor." The 78-year-old Argentine, born Jorge Maria Bergoglio, said that the "great biblical tradition" obliged everyone to listen to the poor.

Philippinen Vatikan Papst Franziskus in Manila Präsident Benigno Aquino
Francis met self-styled corruption combatant Benigno Aquino in ManilaImage: Reuters/S. Rellandini

"It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities," Francis said.

Francis was speaking after a meeting with President Benigno Aquino, who won in election in 2010 on an anti-corruption platform; his predecessor and three senators have since been detained in corruption probes. Aquino also orchestrated the impeachment of the Supreme Court's chief justice on corruption charges. The president's critics accuse him, however, of only pursuing graft cases against his opponents.

Pious, but poverty-stricken

After speaking with the president, the pontiff later celebrated a Mass in Manila's colonial-style cathedral, subsequently making a surprise detour to visit a church-run home caring for former street children in the Philippine capital.

Roughly 80 percent of the Philippines' roughly 100 million inhabitants are thought to be Catholic, making the country one of the Vatican's most successful Asian outposts. Around one-quarter of the Philippines' population lives on the equivalent of $0.60 (roughly 50 euro cents) a day, according to a recent poverty survey.

Francis received a rapturous welcome on Thursday evening in the city, hours after some contentious comments made to a French journalist when asked about satirizing religion. Francis expressed regret that "there are so many people who speak badly about religions," saying that for satire, "there is a limit." Trying to illustrate his point, he said that even his friend, Vatican aide Alberto Gaspari, who was standing nearby on the plane, would know to expect a punch if he were to insult the pontiff's mother.

Philippinen Vatikan Papst Franziskus in Manila
The pope received a warm welcome on ThursdayImage: Reuters/C. Ravelo

The Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, published after last week's terror attacks in Paris, displayed an image of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, depicted grieving for the victims, saying "all is forgiven," and holding a "Je suis Charlie" placard.

msh/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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