MANILA, Philippines - The record-breaking papal Mass in Rizal Park coincided with one of the most popular feast days in the Philippines: Santo Nino Day, or the feast of the Holy Child Jesus.

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MANILA, Philippines - The realities of life described by young people, especially the tearful question of a 12-year-old girl about why God allows suffering, led Pope Francis to set aside the first text he had prepared for a meeting Jan. 18 with the young people of the Philippines.

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MANILA, Philippines - In a nation plagued repeatedly by corruption scandals, Pope Francis urged "everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor."

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MANILA, Philippines - Pope Francis did not disappoint hundreds of former street children who were part of a massive campaign to show him one of the centres where they have found safety and love.

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MANILA, Philippines - Although it was not called a welcoming ceremony, Pope Francis was greeted by government and church officials and an exuberant crowd Jan. 15 at Manila's Villamor Air Base.

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The pastoral visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines, which culminates Jan. 18 at an outdoor Mass expected to draw more than four million people, is being dubbed as a “mercy and compassion visit,” said Faye Arellano of Toronto.

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MANILA, Philippines - Father Matthieu Dauchez knows the children he works with are not the only poor people in the Philippines, but that has not stopped him from lobbying loudly and praying constantly that Pope Francis will stop by.

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VATICAN CITY - Interreligious reconciliation and recovery from natural disaster will be major themes of Pope Francis' Jan. 13-18 visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, according to the Vatican spokesman.

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VATICAN CITY - Ankara and Istanbul were gray and cold during Pope Francis' Nov. 28-30 visit to Turkey. And the general reception, outside of the Pope's official meetings, was hardly warmer.

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MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Church officials expect the Pope's Jan. 15-19 visit to bring healing to victims of disasters. They also emphasized that the visit will not be a fundraising event for the Church.

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PALO, Philippines - One year after one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded crashed across the central Philippines, Church leaders in some of the worst-hit parts looked to Pope Francis' brief January visit to Leyte Island with hope, and slight trepidation.

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TACLOBAN, Philippines - In the past year since Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines, small personal conflicts were ironed out as people pulled together to rebuild their lives.

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TACLOBAN, Philippines - The sun was fierce over the field of dried grass and clumps of earth marked with 3,000 small white crosses. Priests in white vestments walked along the rows of graves, sprinkling streams of holy water from plastic bottles.

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VATICAN CITY - The separation of married couples is a huge issue in the Philippines and other parts of Asia, not because of divorce but because poverty pushes couples to separate in search of jobs abroad, said Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.

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MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine security analyst said the country should take "very, very seriously" the threat of Islamic State fighters on Pope Francis' life, especially during his visit here in January.

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