Catholic World News

‘Largest event in the history of the popes’: at least 6 million attend Mass in Manila

January 19, 2015

An estimated six to seven million people attended Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Rizal Park in Manila on January 18.

“If this is true, and we think it is, this is the largest event in the history of the popes,” said papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, according to the Holy See Press Office.

During the Mass, Pope Francis preached on the importance of family, returning to a theme that he has emphasized during his visit to the Philippines. His words could easily be interpreted as a protest against the sweeping new family-planning policy embraced by the country's government over objections from Church leaders:

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.

In the Gospel, Jesus welcomes children, he embraces them and blesses them (Mk. 10:16). We too need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage. Specifically, we need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected. And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.

The Holy Father dedicated much of his homily to the Santo Niño de Cebú (Holy Child of Cebú), a statue widely venerated in the Philippines, much as another beloved image of the Infant Jesus is venerated in Prague. (In the Philippines, the third Sunday in January is “Santo Niño Sunday.”)

“Dressed in the robes of a king, crowned and holding the scepter, the globe and the cross, he continues to remind us of the link between God’s Kingdom and the mystery of spiritual childhood,” Pope Francis preached. “He reminds us of our deepest identity. All of us are God’s children, members of God’s family.”

“The Bible tells us that the great threat to God’s plan for us is, and always has been, the lie," he continued. “The devil is the father of lies. Often he hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being ‘modern,’ ‘like everyone else.’ He distracts us with the view of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes.”

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  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Jan. 19, 2015 3:26 PM ET USA

    Does large necessarily mean good? There were shadows here especially the way the Eucharist was being distributed in Manila. Video shows the Eucharist being passed around as if it were a poker chip? There has to be some canonical regs re the maximum number that can concelebrate and the worthy distribution of Communion. I cannot imagine the conciliar Fathers when they revived concelebration envisioned this. Large should not be the enemy of reverence.