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Pope Francis greets the pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on January 15, 2014.Giulio Napolitano /

In Manila today Pope Francis met with families in the overflowing “Mall of Asia Arena.” In the largely Catholic nation, which last year saw a law go into effect pushing contraception, the pope defended Catholic teaching against birth control.

The Holy Father said that despite the “challenge of the growth of populations” Pope Paul VI nevertheless had the “strength to defend openness to life,” referring to the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that confirmed Church teaching against the practice.

Francis noted that Paul VI knew of the difficulties in families and thus “in his encyclical, he expressed compassion for particular cases.”  John Paul Meenan, a professor of moral theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy told LifeSiteNews that the 1968 encyclical did speak of particular difficult cases and suggested the use of natural family planning.

Humanae Vitae says that where there are “well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles…”

The encyclical speaks of compassion, saying that the Church knows the weaknesses of the faithful: “She has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners.”  It adds, however, that “she cannot do otherwise than teach the law.”

The family is threatened, Pope Francis said, “by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”

“Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself,” he added. And quoting Saint Pope John Paul II he noted that the “future passes through the family,” exhorting the crowd to protect their families.

“Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats!”  Family, he said, is the “country’s greatest treasure.”

He called on families to “be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death.”


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