POPE WATCH: Francis criticizes materialism amid poverty

Pope Francis is in the Philippines on the first of three full days he is spending in the Catholic stronghold in Asia. Here are some glimpses of his trip as it unfolds:

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QUICKQUOTE:

“While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality.”

— Pope Francis to a crowd of about 20,000 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.

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THE POPE POPS A SURPRISE VISIT

 Some 300 children at a Manila center for street kids got the surprise of their lives on Friday when Pope Francis showed up at their door.

 The pontiff snuck a visit to the Anak-Tnk Foundation in Manila’s Intramuros district after celebrating Mass at the nearby Manila Cathedral.

  Pictures of the visit showed Francis surrounded by children reaching out for his hand. In one photo, he was seated among them, smiling as he carried two younger children on his lap.

  “This is awesome … he gave me a huge warm hug,” 10-year-old Alvin was quoted as saying in a statement released by Anak-Tnk.

  Last September, the center launched a campaign called “Even us?” mailing thousands of letters to Francis in hopes that he could meet with the children.

  “Those children, the poorest among the poor are for sure the most vulnerable victims of our society,” the Rev. Matthieu Dauchez, the foundation’s director, told Francis. “But they remain the masters of joy, as one can see on their smiling faces.”

  The center, founded in 1998 by a Jesuit priest, helps homeless children and those living in the slums.

      — By Teresa Cerojano, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: twitter.com/mtmanila

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GETTING CLOSE TO THE PEOPLE

Walking into a packed 20,000-seat arena, Francis finally got to get close to his flock, greeting and blessing people who lined his long way to the stage.

From his airport arrival late Thursday through most of Friday, security concerns have kept him at a distance from followers. Crowds who watched his numerous motorcades were held back by barricades and police. They were lucky to get a glance and a wave from afar.

The Mall of Asia arena, where the pope was to listen to the testimonies of families, put Francis in his element, and he seemed in no rush to get to his seat on the stage.

— By Ken Moritsugu, AP writer, Manila, Philippines, Twitter: twitter.com/kmorit

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PAPAL SWAG

Popes always bring along gifts for the hundreds of dignitaries they greet during trips, and Pope Francis is no different.

In Sri Lanka, Francis handed out small bronze medallions with an engraved replica of the Our Lady of Madhu shrine that he visited in the north. The shrine became a place of refuge during the country’s 25-year civil war.

The medallion for the Philippines features a replica of the Santo Nino statue of the infant Jesus, which dates from the time of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and is one of the most important icons in the Philippines. Francis’ final Mass of the trip falls on the feast of Santo Nino on Sunday.

— By Nicole Winfield, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: twitter.com/nwinfield

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ANYTHING FOR A POPE SIGHTING

Security guard Reynaldo Avena, his wife and 4-month-old son waited for six hours along Manila’s bayside Roxas Boulevard to see Francis’ convoy go by.

“We want to see him with our first baby,” he said before the motorcade passed. “We will be happy if we can just see him so he can bless us, help us in our lives.”

Tens of thousands of people waited for hours in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Roman Catholic Church leader. The sighting of the pontiff’s vehicle sent crowds cheering wildly, and cellphone and tablet cameras snapping.

Alberto Garcia, a 59-year-old electrician, was rushing to catch the pope outside the Manila cathedral, but with roads blocked amid tight security, he settled for joining about 100 people watching the Mass on a giant screen atop a truck.

“It is the wish of every Filipino to see him,” he said, “and if possible, to interact with him, talk to him.”

— By Teresa Cerojano, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: twitter.com/mtmanila

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QUICKQUOTE: “SETTLE OUR DIFFERENCES”

“Everything I have said has not been to criticize but to speak the truth for the truth shall set us all free. If we are able to settle our differences, can we not benefit our people quicker?” — President Benigno Aquino III, in his address to the Philippine clergy during a call by Francis at the presidential palace. Aquino’s support for a new law that allows the government to distribute artificial contraceptives led to strong criticism from some church leaders.

— By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: twitter.com/seveto

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TABLET GENERATION

A traditional scene came with the inevitable 21st-century touch. As Francis and his procession walked up the aisle of the Manila Cathedral between a sea of white — bishops, priests and nuns in religious vestments — many of them held up smart phones and tablets to record the moment. The cathedral, whose origins date to the 16th century, sits in the historic “walled city” from the Spanish colonial period.

— By Ken Moritsugu, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: http://twitter.com/kmorit

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