ROME, November 29, 2010 (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI said on Monday he “commended” the Philippines’ Church for its pro-life stance and defense of the institution of marriage.

“I commend the Church in the Philippines for seeking to play its part in support of human life from conception until natural death, and in defense of the integrity of marriage and the family,” Benedict told visiting Philippine bishops.

“In these areas you are promoting truths about the human person and about society which arise not only from divine revelation but also from the natural law,” he added.

Benedict said he appreciated “the Church’s work to abolish the death penalty” and acknowledged the “on-going commitment to the struggle against corruption.”

Philippine President Benigno Aquino recently announced that the government will pay for contraception for the poorest couples in the devoutly the catholic country, despite strong opposition by the Catholic Church.

In the four months since Aquino came to power the impoverished country’s population has grown by about 600,000 – the fastest rate of increase in Southeast Asia.