Pope Francis greeted by ecstatic Philippines crowds

THE Pope has been greeted by hundreds of thousands of cheering people who waited several hours in steaming heat for his arrival in the Philippines.

They lined the streets of the capital Manila to glimpse his motorcade.

Millions more are expected to come out to see him over his five-day visit to the nation’s 80 million Catholics.

The pontiff said that a priority of his visit would be to send a message to the poor who face “social, spiritual and existential” injustices.

“The central nut of the message will be the poor, the poor who want to go forward, the poor who suffered from Typhoon Haiyan and are continuing to suffer the consequences,” he said while travelling to the Philippines from Sri Lanka. Typhoon Haiyan killed or left missing more than 7,300 people, razing villages to the ground in the centre of the Philippines in 2013.

Leyte province was especially badly affected, and it is there where the Pope will seek to console survivors on Saturday.

He said that also prominent in his mind were some Filipino workers at the Vatican who had left their families for jobs overseas.The Philippines is one of the world’s largest exporters of labour – it is estimated that about a tenth of the population has left the country in search of work – and reports of their abuse and exploitation are commonplace.

President Aquino has also spoken of his determination to eradicate poverty, although he has been at loggerheads with the local Roman Catholic Church over a 2012 reproductive health law that promotes artificial birth control.

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