Philippine crowd of 6 million braves rain for Pope Francis mass

(Photo: REUTERS / Cheryl Ravelo)A Catholic faithful receives holy communion during an open-air Mass led by Pope Francis at Rizal Park in Manila January 18, 2015. Pope Francis concluded his trip to Asia on Sunday with an open-air Mass for a rain-drenched crowd in Manila that the Vatican and the government said drew up to seven million people, the largest ever for a papal event.

Pope Francis ended his Asian trip at a rain-sodden open-air mass in Manila that the Vatican and the Philippines government said drew up to seven million people, the largest for a papal event.

"The official number that has been given to us is between six and seven million," Father Federico Lombardi told journalists at a press conference in Manila on January 18 calling it the "largest event of the history of the popes," the Catholic News Agency reported.

The Pope returned to Rome on January 19 following a closing ceremony in Manila.

Pope Francis' "message of compassion for the poor and the need to end the corruption that sustains their suffering will continue to resonate in a country where a quarter of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day," Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Before Francis left Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, thanked Pope Francis for his visit to the Philippines .

"Thank you. I say...on behalf of the street children, the orphans, the widows, the homeless, the informal settlers, the laborers, the farmers, the fisher folk, the sick, the abandoned elderly, the families of missing persons, the victims of discrimination, violence, abuse, exploitation, human trafficking," he said.

He thanked them for, "the Filipino migrant workers and their families, the survivors of natural calamities and armed conflicts, the non-Christian Catholics, the followers of non-Christian religions, the promoters of peace especially in Mindanao and creation that groans."

The Philippines is Asia's most Catholic country and the third-largest Catholic country in the world after Mexico and Brazil.

Wearing a cheap transparent yellow poncho over his white cassock, the Pope drove through a cheering in a jeepney a popular mode of transport in the Philippines derived from a U.S. military vehicle used in World War II.

In his homily for the c1osing mass in the Philippines, Pope Francis noted humanity's identity as God's children, calling for the protection of the family against the numerous attacks that threaten it.

"Sadly, in our day, the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture."

Pope Francis spoke at Rizal Park in Manila where some 5 million people had attended a mass celebrated by Saint John Paul II during his papal visit.

Huge crowds have turned out for the Pope's Masses and public events in the Philippines, where 83 percent of the 108 million people identify as being Catholic.

Several typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters have caused havoc in the Southeast Asian nation in recent years.

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