In his homily for the Jan. 18 Closing Mass in the Philippines, Pope Francis pointed to our identity as God’s children, calling for the protection of the family against the numerous attacks that threaten it. The Christ Child, explained Pope Francis, “reminds us of the importance of protecting our family, and those larger families which are the Church, God’s family, and the world, our human family.” “Sadly, in our day, 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.” Just as Jesus welcomes and embraces children in the Gospel, the Pope said, “(w)e too need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage.” “Specifically, we need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected,” he continued, adding that we must care for young people, “not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.” Pope Francis spoke to estimated millions of Filipinos gathered at Rizal Park in Manila at the final public event during his Jan. 15-19 trip to the country. Huge crowds have turned out for the Pope's Masses and public events in the Philippines, where 86 percent of the population identifies as Catholic. In recent years, the island country has struggled with the effects of several typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters. During his apostolic visit, the Pope deviated from both his official schedule and prepared speeches — meeting with impoverished children from the streets and going off-the-cuff in remarks to families on the dangers of contraception and redefining marriage. Noting his joy in celebrating Mass on Hoy Child Sunday, the Pope spoke in his final homily on “the link between God’s Kingdom and the mystery of spiritual childhood.” Our deepest identity, the Pope explained, is found in our adoption as “God’s children, members of God’s family.” “We saw a beautiful expression of this when Filipinos rallied around our brothers and sisters affected by the typhoon,” he observed. This identity as God’s children must be protected, Pope Francis continued. He explained that Christ himself needed the earthly protection of his family — particularly St. Joseph — when he came to earth as a child and immediately found his life threatened by King Herod. Similarly, we must protect the family and spread the faith. The Philippines’ status as the foremost Catholic country in Asia is both a special gift and blessing from God, and also a vocation, the Pope said. “Filipinos are called to be outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia,” he stated, stressing the calling to be witnesses amid a world of sin that has disfigured the beauty of the natural world. Through sin, the Holy Father continued, “man has also destroyed the unity and beauty of our human family, creating social structures which perpetuate poverty, ignorance, and corruption.” Surrounded by troubles and difficulties, we may be tempted give up, the Pope acknowledged. “It seems that the promises of the Gospel do not apply; they are unreal.” However, the real threat is the lie of Satan, who often “hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being ‘modern,’ ‘like everyone else’,” Pope Francis explained. “(Satan) distracts us with the promise of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes. And, so we squander our God-give gifts by tinkering with gadgets; we squander our money on gambling and drink; we turn in on ourselves. We forget to remain focus on the things that really matter. We forget to remain, at heart, children of God.” Learning from the Child Jesus, we remember our identity as children of God, and we are willing to fight against attacks on the family structure and God’s family, the Pope reminded. “It was a frail child, in need of protection, who brought God’s goodness, mercy and justice into the world,” Pope Francis said. “He resisted the dishonesty and corruption which are the legacy of sin, and he triumphed over them by the power of his cross.” “Now, at the end of my visit to the Philippines, I commend you to him, to Jesus who came among us as a child. May he enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another, beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace.”