Pope Francis in Manila!

Pope Francis has called on leaders to fight corruption and end “scandalous” social inequalities, on the first full day of his Philippine visit.

The Pope was speaking at a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace hosted by President Benigno Aquino.

He is now celebrating a Mass at the capital’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The pontiff was greeted by huge crowds as he arrived in the overwhelmingly Catholic country on Thursday.

The highlight of the papal visit will be on Sunday, when an open-air Mass is expected to attract millions.

The Pope is on a six-day tour of Asia. Earlier in the week he visited Sri Lanka.

Speaking at Friday’s welcome ceremony to the Philippine president and other officials, Pope Francis called for leaders “to reject every form of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor” and to make concerted efforts to ensure inclusivity.

“It is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” he added.

He said that the Bible emphasised that there was a duty “to hear the voice of the poor” and “break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities”.

“Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart,” he said.

Corruption has been a longstanding issue in the Philippines. It placed 85 in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.

The pontiff said ahead of his arrival that those at the bottom on the economic ladder were the focus of his visit, including people hit by the deadly Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

The Pope will meet survivors of the storm, which left more than 7,000 people dead or missing, on Saturday in Tacloban, the worst-affected area.

Pope Francis’s Philippines schedule

Thursday – arrived in Manila
Friday – meets President Benigno Aquino and celebrates Mass in Manila Cathedral
Saturday – heads to Tacloban, to celebrate Mass and have lunch with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. Returns to Manila that evening.
Sunday – morning meeting with representatives of various religions and with young people, before celebrating Mass for up to six million people in Rizal Park