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Pope's final homily in Philippines: Protect the family

Pope Francis hugs a child during his meeting with the youth in Santo Tomas University in Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. AP/Alessandra Tarantino

MANILA, Philippines — Pope Francis' last homily in the Philippines for his five-day stay carried the oft-recurring theme expressing his concern for the family.

Reflecting on the Filipinos' devotion to the image of the Christ child, locally known as the Santo Nino, the pope impelled the millions of pilgrims attending an outdoor Mass in Rizal Park to "protect" the family.

"[The Santo Nino] reminds us of the importance of protecting our families and those larger families, which are the Church, God's family, and the world, our human family," the Roman Pontiff said in English.

As he did in his message to families at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, the pope again lamented modern threats to the family.

"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 said.

He also warned of the attractiveness of the devil, whom he called the "father of lies," hiding in  distractions due to gadgets and squandering resources on gambling and drink.

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"Often, [the devil] hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of of being 'modern', 'like everyone else'. He distracts us with the promise of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes," he said.

Repeating his supplication to young people on Sunday morning at the University of Santo Tomas, Pope Francis said Filipinos should be "focused on things that really matter."

We forget to remain, at heart, children of God.

Protecting children

Pope Francis also used the image of the Santo Nino to appeal for the protection of children and young people, who will continue the "great spiritual and cultural heritage" in society.

"We need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected," he said. "And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets."

On Sunday morning, the Holy Father listened to testimonies of two former street children who experienced and witnessed abuse, crime and abandonment.

"Why is God allowing something like this to happen, even to innocent children? And why are there so few who are helping us?" one of the two children said, breaking down in tears, unable to finish reading what she had prepared to say to the pope.

"Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question," Francis said. "There are some realities that you can only see through eyes that are cleansed by tears."

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