VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has sent what the Vatican calls initial assistance to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines — $150,000 (120,000 euros) to help those left homeless.

The money will be sent by the Holy See's charity organization Cor Unum to local churches in the hardest hit areas, particularly Leyte and Samar islands. The Vatican described the cash donation as "a first and immediate concrete expression" of Francis' encouragement and spiritual closeness to Filipinos.

On Sunday, Francis urged people to provide concrete help to those affected by the typhoon and led tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in silent prayer for the storm's victims.

The Philippines has Asia's largest Catholic population.