In his weekly General Audience today, Pope Francis reflected on his recent visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, saying that it was a “joyous meeting with the ecclesial communities that give witness to Christ.”
The Holy Father seemed well rested and in good spirits despite a 14+ hour flight back from Manila on Monday.
“I will always keep in my heart the memory of the festive welcome by the crowd,” he told the faithful gathered at the Paul VI Audience Hall.
Beginning with his visit to Sri Lanka, the Pope said that the culminating moment of the trip was the canonization of St. Joseph Vaz, who he said was a model for all Christians.
“This holy priest administered the Sacraments, often in secret, to the faithful, but helped all those in need without distinction, from every religion and social condition,” the Pope said. “His example of holiness and love of neighbor continues to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka in his apostolate of charity and education.”
The Pope went on to comment on the natural beauty of the country and the plight of those who seek to rebuild unity after a 30-year civil war that ravaged the country. The various religions in the country as well as their leaders, he said, have a crucial role in fostering peace and reconciliation.
Reflecting on his apostolic visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis noted the profound faith of the people and the “constant fruitfulness of the Gospel” in the country. He also told the faithful gathered that the main reason for his visit was to express his closeness to those who suffered from the devastating 2013 typhoon.
During his visit to Tacloban, the area hit hardest by typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda), the Pope’s visit was cut short due to an approaching tropical storm. Tragedy struck once again on the island following the Pope’s departure when a piece of scaffolding fell on 27-year-old volunteer Kristel Padasas, who died shortly after. The Pope once again remembered her during his address.
Family and the poor
Pope Francis recalled his meeting with the families in Manila, calling it a “salient moment” during his visit.
“It gives me consolation and hope to see so many large families that welcome children as a true gift from God,” he said.
“I have heard it said that families with many children and the birth of many children are among the causes of poverty. It seems to me a simplistic opinion,” he continued.
“I would say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the center and has placed there the god of money, an economic system that always excludes children, the elderly, the youth.”
Echoing his address to the families, the Pope said that the image of St. Joseph as protector of the Child Jesus is a model to follow in defending the family today from “the new ideological colonizations that threaten its identity and its mission.”
The Pope also remembered his meeting with the youth of the Philippines, saying that it was a joy to be with them, as well as calling on them to help contribute to society through service to the poor and in the care of the environment.
Pope Francis concluded his address by giving thanks to God for his pastoral visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. “I ask [God] to always bless these two countries and to confirm the faithfulness of Christians to the Gospel message of our redemption, reconciliation and communion in Christ,” he said.