MANILA, Jan. 18, 2015—Pope Francis presided over the Holy Mass honoring the Santo Niño (Holy Child) at the Quirino Grandstand where some some six million people gathered despite non-stop rain, noting how its centuries-old image symbolizes the evangelization of the islands, and reminds Filipinos of “things that really matter”.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on the faithful to bring Sto. Niño images to Luneta for the closing Mass of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the Philippines, Jan. 18, 2015. (Photo: Natalie Hazel Quimlat)

“We forget to remain focused on things that really matter. We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. For children, as the Lord tells us, have their own wisdom, which is not the wisdom of the world,” the head of the Catholic Church told the congregation which seemed unaffected by the bad weather on the third day of his apostolic visit to Asia’s foremost Christian nation.

Spiritual childhood

He stressed the message of the Santo Niño is important, given that He speaks powerfully to all the faithful, reminding them of their deepest identity as children of God as well as “brothers and sisters in Christ.”

“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,” he stated.

“It was a frail child in need of protection, who brought God’s goodness, mercy and justice into the world,” he shared, adding that the Feast of the Santo Niño brings to the Church’s attention the importance of protecting the family as his earthly father, St. Joseph, protected the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Insidious attacks on family

According to him, a beautiful expression of this relationship with the Christ Child was tested in how they came to the aid of Filipinos affected by typhoon “Yolanda”.

The Argentine pontiff lamented, however, that 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”.

“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,” His Holiness stressed.

“May the Santo Niño continue to bless the Philippines and to sustain the Christians of this great nation in their vocation to be witnesses and missionaries of the joy of the Gospel, in Asia and in the whole world,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)