Pope Francis’ Pastoral Visit to U.S.

Saturday, September 26

In his final leg of his 6-day pastoral visit to the U.S. Pope Francis visited Philadelphia. In his homily at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the Pope reflected on the question, “What about you?” He encourages us “to be renewed in the joy of that first encounter with Jesus and to draw from that joy renewed fidelity and strength.”

As Pope Francis stood before Independence Hall in Philadelphia he spoke about the importance of religious freedom. He took the opportunity to “thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve the God of peace by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant.”

Saturday evening Pope Francis participated in a great gathering of families for a vigil of prayer and celebration of the family. He spoke of the family as God’s great gift and reminded us that, “A people not able to look after their children and grandparents is a people that has no future, because it doesn’t have strength or the memory to go forward.”

As Friar Don Bassana (in D.C. during Pope Francis’ visit) says, “The thing I pray for now is that people will take this enthusiasm and transform it into action.”

On Friday, September 25, Pope Francis addressed the United Nations. He continued his call for peace, justice, and safeguarding the environment.

He said, “a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged…The poorest are those who suffer the most from such offenses.”

Photo by Dan Sanchez
Photo by Dan Sanchez

The Pope also lamented the continued persecution of Christians and other cultural or ethnic groups who are being persecuted in the Middle East, North Africa, and other African countries. “…real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be.”

“Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies is a result of the narcotics trade…Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption.”

Pope Francis ended his speech with a prayer for peace and prosperity. Following his address to the United Nations, Pope Francis visited the 9/11 Memorial and prayed with other leaders from various religions for unity and a celebration of their differences.

On Thursday, September 24, Pope Francis addressed a joint meeting of the United States Congress. Drawing on the examples of four Americans celebrated for their faith in God as well as their accomplishments – Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton – he encouraged the people of United States to live up to the ideals of the country’s founding. Saying he wanted to engage in a dialogue with the people of the US, the Pope challenged all to work together to address the problems facing the country and the world.

Here are some quotes from his speech:

Photo by Most Reverend Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., Bishop of Savannah
Photo by Most Reverend Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., Bishop of Savannah

“A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of religion, an ideology, or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom, and individual freedoms.”

“Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.”

“Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”

Following his address, Pope Francis served lunch at a homeless shelter and spent time with the clients. He departs this afternoon for New York, arriving in time for evening prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Wednesday, September 23:

Following a Papal Parade along the Ellipse and the National Mall, Pope Francis led the Liturgy of Hours at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. He addressed the Bishops of the United States saying, "I do not wish to tell you what to do because we know what the Lord asks us to do." He encouraged the Bishops to be shepherds, to dialogue fearlessly, to face the challenging issues of our time. He reminded us that life is a gift and a responsibility.

Friars Vincent Petersen and Don Bassana hit the ground in DC to greet Pope Francis
Friars Vincent Petersen and Don Bassana hit the ground in DC to greet Pope Francis

 

Pope Francis ended with two recommendations close to his heart. First, that the Bishops be pastors and shepherds close to the people - neighbors and servants. That the Bishops train their priests to be ready to stop, bend down, lift up, and assist those who need help. Second, he commended the Church for reaching out to immigrants and then reminded us that immigrants have much to share with us. Offer them the love of Christ and they will enrich the US and our Church.

 

Crowds gather on the Mall to greet Pope Francis.
Crowds gather on the Mall to greet Pope Francis.

Later in the afternoon Pope Francis presided at the Junipero Serra Canonization Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.