Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception on Friday, using a rally in Asia’s largest Catholic nation to urge families to be “sanctuaries of respect for life,” reports the Sun Herald. Police said 86,000 people gathered outside one of Manila’s biggest sports arenas (capacity 20,000), where Francis held his first meeting with families. He firmly upheld church teaching opposing artificial contraception, and endeared himself to the crowd with off-the-cuff jokes and even a well-intentioned attempt at sign language.
“Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death,” Francis exhorted the crowd. “What a gift this would be to society if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation.”
According to Reuters, the Philippines Catholic Church is opposed to a government decision to introduce a family planning law — allowing public health centers to hand out contraceptives, such as condoms and pills, and teach sex education in schools. In a country where more than 80 percent of the 100 million population is Roman Catholic, the Church opposed the law, effectively blocking its passage for 13 years, for fear it would lead to a spike in abortions. The Philippines has one of the highest birth rates in Asia.
The pope also warned on Friday against an “ideological colonization of the family,” a reference to gay marriage around the world. As reported previously in the Inquisitr, the pope has equated gay marriage with an attack on the traditional family. While the Pope has said before that marriage must be between a man and a woman, his use of the phrase “ideological colonization” appeared to be an appeal to developing countries not to follow the lead of nations where gay unions are already legal.
He deviated from his prepared remarks to praise Pope Paul VI for having “courageously” resisted calls for an opening in church teaching on sexuality in the 1960s. Paul penned the 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which enshrined the church’s opposition to artificial birth control.
Francis noted that Paul was aware that some families would find it difficult to uphold the teaching, and “he asked confessors to be particularly compassionate and understandable for particular cases.”
But he nevertheless said Paul was wise in resisting the trends of the times.
“He looked beyond. He looked to the peoples of the Earth and saw the destruction of the family because of the lack of children,” Francis said. “Paul VI was courageous. He was a good pastor. He warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching, and from the heavens he blesses us today.”
[Image via Wikimedia]