Manila, Philippines, Jan 16, 2015 / 01:56 am
During his first full day in the Philippines, Pope Francis met with President Benigno Aquino and other officials at the presidential palace, encouraging them to use the country's strong religious heritage as a force for good.
"It is my hope that this important anniversary will point to its continuing fruitfulness and its potential to inspire a society worthy of the goodness, dignity and aspirations of the Filipino people," he said in an address at the palace Jan. 16.
The Philippines is also about to mark the 500th anniversary of the proclamation of the Gospel on Philippine shores, which is likely why Pope Francis gifted President Aquino with a copy of an atlas from the Vatican Library mapping the world as Europeans knew it in the 16th century.
One of only 50 copies of the original atlas in the world, the volume contains 14 nautical maps in color on parchment. The original atlas can be dated to 1562 and was purchased by the Vatican Library in 1657. It is attributed to the mapmaker Bartolomé Oliva, from the Mediterranean island of Majorca.
Pope Francis arrived in the Philippines Jan. 15 after spending three days in Sri Lanka during his second Asian pilgrimage as pope. Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity with those who have suffered at the hands of natural disasters in the Philippines, including the recent Typhoon Haiyan which killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless in December 2013.
Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos have turned out to see Pope Francis during his trip thus far, and a whopping 86 percent of the country's 98.4 million people identify as Catholic.
When Pope St. John Paul II visited the Philippines in 1995, an estimated 4 or 5 million people attended, thought to be the largest crowd in history to ever attend a papal event. Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate an outdoor Mass in Manila on Jan. 18, where the crowds may break this previous record.