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Pope Francis to Zubiri: Protect the family

MANILA, Philippines — Former Senate president Juan Miguel Zubiri has been asked by Pope Francis to “protect the family” during a June 5 visit to the Vatican, amid the absolute divorce bill’s approval by the lower chamber of Congress.

Zubiri earlier described himself as the “equivalent of an American Republican, who is pro-family and pro-life.”

“I am always going to remember his reminder and I am going to do my best to protect the family values that hold our nation together,” Zubiri said.

The Philippines, a secular state, is the last country in the world aside from the Vatican that has not legalized divorce.

Zubiri is in Europe to “take a short sabbatical away from politics” and to spend some “long-promised quality time” with his family.

With his wife Audrey and their three children, Zubiri met with the pope during the weekly catechesis and prayers for world peace.

They were accompanied by the Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Myla Grace Ragenia Macahilig.

“Our Catholic faith is so important to our family, so it was very humbling to have the Pope give us so much of his time and attention. He seemed especially fond of our youngest boy and even asked him to learn Spanish,” Zubiri recalled.

After introducing himself as a pro-life and pro-family legislator from the Philippines, the pope asked Zubiri to “please protect the family.”

On May 22, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the absolute divorce bill, voting 131-109 with 20 abstentions.

The bill’s transmittal to the Senate for concurrence is on hold pending questions on how votes were counted, as the House leadership had erroneously reported 126 affirmative votes, later correcting it to 131.