Pope Francis: Listen to women, men are too machista

Pope Francis embraces a boy and a girl during a meeting with young people at Manila university, January 18, 2015 (Reuters / Stefano Rellandini)
Pope Francis has called on men to listen to women as they have “much to tell us." Women are able to ask questions that men can’t grasp, the pontiff told an audience in the Philippines, where his comments drew instant applause.

"Women have much to tell us in today's society,” Francis told a mostly male audience at the Catholic University of Santo Tomas in Manila, on the last day of a weeklong visit to Philippines and Sri Lanka.

His impromptu comments were welcomed with applause from the audience. About 6 million people gathered to see Pope Francis, which is a world record number for a papal crowd, the head of Manila's planning agency told AFP

“At times we men are too 'machista', the Argentinian pontiff said using word for the term for extreme male chauvinism in his native Spanish.

According to the 78-year-old Catholic leader, we “don’t allow room for women but women are capable of seeing things with a different angle from us, with a different eye.”

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His comments come after he noted that four out of five people who asked him questions on the stage were male.

"There is only a small representation of females here, too little," he said, to laughter.

He added that it was a 12-year-old girl who posed the toughest question to him. Glyzelle Palomar, who was living on the streets before being taken in by a church charity, broke into tears when she was posing her question.

Pope Francis, wearing a raincoat, waves to well-wishers during a meeting with youths at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila January 18, 2015 (Reuters / Ezra Acayan)

"Many children are abandoned by their parents. Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things to happen to us? The children are not guilty of anything," Palomar said.

Francis took her into his arms and hugged her for a few seconds.

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"She is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer and she wasn't even able to express it in words, but in tears," he said.

"So, when the next pope comes to Manila, let's please have more women among you."

The Philippines is the most populous majority-Catholic country in Asia, as of a population of 75.5 million people, 80 percent are Catholics.

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Since his election by Catholic cardinals in March 2013, Francis has become known for his liberal approach and emotional, caring statements, reaching out to the poor and to sexual minorities.

In October, the Catholic Church said it is considering embracing homosexual believers, as well as partially accepting same-sex and other religiously unsanctioned partnerships.

On several occasions, Pope Francis has lashed out against capitalism and its destruction of humanity. He has also said that all animals go to heaven, as “paradise is open to all of God's creatures.”