Philippine President Corazon Aquino thanked the pope Saturday for his prayers during the 1986 revolution that brought her to power and said "God's hand . . . snatched my country from the edge of calamity."
The leader of Asia's most Roman Catholic country met with John Paul II at the conclusion of a three-day visit to Italy.Aquino spoke privately with the Polish pontiff for 35 minutes Saturday.
Afterward, she told him in a speech: "I bring with me the love and gratitude of the Filipino people: for His Holiness' visit to the Philippines in 1981, for the canonization of St. Lorenzo Ruiz last year, and for his prayers during the February revolution, when God's hand, working through the multitude of men, wom-en and children, snatched my country from the edge of calamity and gently set it down in peace and freedom."
The Philippine Catholic Church played a major role in the "People Power" revolution that brought Aquino to power in 1986 and ended 20 years of rule by Ferdinand Marcos.
About 85 percent of the Philippines' 56 million people are Catholic.
The pope, in a white cassock and red sash, praised Philippine democracy and the country's new agrarian reform program and called for a negotiated settlement of the Communist-backed insurgency.
Aquino, a practicing Catholic, has said in the past she relies on prayer to help her govern. She has often sought political advice from church officials in the Philippines, including Cardinal Jaime Sin.
With Aquino on Saturday were her daughter, Kris, and members of the Philippine Cabinet.
Aquino presented the pope with a mother-of-pearl chalice. John Paul gave the Philippine leader a medal and a small, silver-framed replica of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, a Polish icon.
The pope, in a speech after the private meeting, called on the Philippine government to uphold the values of human dignity and family life.
"The Filipino people, Madame President, possess those traditional qualitites called `pakakaisa' and `bayanihan' which can contribute to promoting social justice and to ensuring that each person's dignity and rights are respected and defended," he said, using the native Tagalog-language words for cooperation and unity.