Pope defends church line on contraception

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The Pope has issued his strongest defence yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception, using a rally in Asia’s largest Catholic nation to urge families to be “sanctuaries of respect for life”.

Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued the Philippines for decades and urged officials to work to end its “scandalous” poverty and social inequalities during his first full day in Manila, where he received a rock star’s welcome.

Security was tighter than it has ever been for this Pope, who relishes plunging into crowds. Mobile phone service around the city was intentionally jammed for a second day on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission and roadblocks along Francis’s motorcade route snarled traffic for miles.

Police vans followed his motorcade while officers formed human chains in front of barricades to hold back the tens of thousands of cheering Filipinos who packed boulevards for hours for a glimpse of his Volkswagen passing by.

Officers said another 86,000 gathered outside one of Manila’s biggest sports arenas, capacity 20,000, where Francis held his first encounter with the Filipino masses: a meeting with families. There, he firmly upheld church teaching opposing artificial contraception.

His comments were clearly a nod to the local church, which recently lost a significant fight when President Benigno Aquino III pushed through a reproductive health law that allows the government to provide artificial birth control to the poor.