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Pope Francis in America

September 27, 2015

Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on Sunday at the end of his six-day visit to the U.S. (AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images)

Pope Francis concluded his three-city U.S. tour on Sunday in Philadelphia as his plane departed for Rome just before 8 p.m. Sunday.

Full coverage | Pope’s schedule | The pope’s views

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

After six days and dozens of events, we are shutting down the live blog. Thanks for tuning in.

  • Susan Levine
  • ·
The clean-up and takedown on the parkway will last hours.

The clean-up and takedown on the parkway will last hours. (Karen Heller/The Washington Post)

In front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, workers began to strike the stage not long after Pope Francis departed for the airport. Shortly before 8 a.m., the huge cross started to come down, too.

The tight security and immense crowds that had prevented a significant number of pilgrims from reaching the Mass seemed to dissipate quickly. Left behind were pallets and pallets of water bottles, plus an untold number of apples and peanut butter snacks that hadn’t been handed out during the hours-long gathering.

Philadelphia police Lt. John Rauchut, who’d been stationed along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street, was rubbing a very sore left foot after 11 hours on duty.

“Maybe they underestimated the crowds,” he said of the long lines of people who were unable to get into the area to worship. With security, he said, “You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.”

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

Wow, that was a whirlwind.

Six days. Three cities. Millions of the faithful and who knows how many babies kissed. It’s hard summing up Pope Francis’s trip in a few lines, but these are some of the highlights (and lowlights) that we saw.

On Sunday morning, Pope Francis met with five victims of sexual abuse. In unscripted remarks about the abuse that has plagued and riven the church, Francis said simply “God weeps.” The gesture pleased some, but left others wanting more.

When Pope Francis was heading out of the airport after arriving in Philadelphia Saturday, he saw a boy with cerebral palsy waiting in the crowd by the roadside. The pontiff popped out of his car, blessed Michael Keating and then gave him a kiss on the head. The moment was captured in this stunning photo.

In this photo provided by World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis kisses and blesses Michael Keating, 10, of Elverson, Pa after arriving in Philadelphia and exiting his car when he saw the boy, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Philadelphia International Airport. Keating has cerebral palsy and is the son of Chuck Keating, director of the Bishop Shanahan High School band that performed at Pope Francis' airport arrival. (Joseph Gidjunis/World Meeting of Families via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

In this photo provided by World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis kisses and blesses Michael Keating, 10, of Elverson, Pa after arriving in Philadelphia and exiting his car when he saw the boy, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Philadelphia International Airport. Keating has cerebral palsy and is the son of Chuck Keating, director of the Bishop Shanahan High School band that performed at Pope Francis’ airport arrival. (Joseph Gidjunis/World Meeting of Families via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

A somber and touching moment came in New York City on Friday, when Pope Francis and leaders of a handful of other faiths prayed for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The pontiff mourned the “unspeakable violence and pain” of that tragedy and called for healing for all victims and survivors. The pope prayed to turn the hearts of those who “justify killing in the name of religion.”

As for the strangest moment of the pope’s visit, it wasn’t even close. It came Thursday when Rep. Bob Brady (D-Penn) snatched a water glass that the pontiff used during a speech to Congress. Brady then reportedly carefully carried the glass back to his office. He sipped the water, passed it around to his wife, two staffers and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Yes, that happened.

Who could forget 5-year-old Sophie Cruz? The little girl melted hearts when she met the pope during a parade in Washington on Wednesday. Security stopped Sophie as she first approached the pope at the Ellipse outside the White House. On her second attempt, after her father lifted her over the barricade, Francis motioned for her to come over, and security obliged.

The pope kissed her cheek and took her envelope, which included a letter about immigration and a photo with words that translate as “My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color.” Sophie said her hope is that he can bring change to U.S. immigration laws.

The letter Sophie Cruz, 5, of Los Angeles, gave to the Pope. It reads "my friends and I love each other no matter our skin color."

The letter Sophie Cruz, 5, of Los Angeles, gave to the Pope. It reads “my friends and I love each other no matter our skin color.”

  • Susan Levine
  • ·

The pontiff walked a crowded rope line on the tarmac at the Philadelphia International Airport, saying goodbye to a collection of bishops and city officials. One of the last to shake his hand was Vice President Joe Biden.

And with that, Pope Francis climbed the steps of the American Airlines plane taking him back to Rome. Television footage showed him settling into a window seat for the long flight home.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey
  • ·

The pope met privately with 500 World Meeting of Family volunteers before heading to the tarmac where clergy, dignitaries and some 250 of their friends and family were there to greet him with the high school band.

  • Susan Levine
  • ·

Pope Francis spoke publicly one last time Sunday before departing from the United States, telling Vice President Joe Biden and local dignitaries and others that he was leaving with “a heart full of gratitude and hope.”
The pontiff spoke at a brief evening ceremony at the Philadelphia International Airport following the huge, 90-minute-plus Mass on the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He said his days in this country, while brief, “have been days of grace for me and I pray for you, too.”
He mentioned his visit to Ground Zero in New York City and described standing there with leaders of other faiths as moving. Although it is a place “that speaks so powerfully of the misery of evil,” he said, “we know in God’s merciful plan, love and peace triumph over all.”
The pope noted that “this land has been blessed with tremendous gifts and opportunities” and then asked his audience to be “good and generous stewards” of those.
Once again, Pope Francis concluded by requesting that the people gathered pray for him. And his final farewell words elicited a big response: “May God bless you all. God bless America.”

The pope is scheduled to fly to Rome at 8 p.m.

  • Terrence McCoy
  • ·
People leaving the pope's final mass in Phiadelphia faced long waits (Terrence McCoy/The Washington Post)

People leaving the pope’s final mass in Phiadelphia faced long waits (Terrence McCoy/The Washington Post)

Tens of thousands of people waited in hours’ long lines on Broad Street to get on the trains for home following the papal Mass.

“This is like [the movie] Independence Day,” said Joseph Cruzeta, 38, of Philadelphia.

Others were more positive about the lines. They’re long, yes. But there aren’t any regrets, said Anne Mendez, 56, of New Providence, N.J. “It’s insane, but it’s absolutely worth it,” she said. “It’s our Catholic faith, and we’re with the people who believe the same things we do.”

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

Pope Francis’s motorcade has left the venue for the World Festival of Families venue, where he performed the final mass of his six-day trip to the United States. He is scheduled to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and organizers of the World Festival of Families.

The pontiff is scheduled to depart for Rome at 8 p.m.

  • Susan Levine
  • ·
With the Mass ended, capitalism takes over and the sales begin.

With the Mass ended, capitalism takes over once again. (Karen Heller/The Washington Post)

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

There was joy during Pope Francis’s final Mass in the United States, but there was also some frustration and anger with the massive waits and large crowds that showed up. Some of the faithful, such as Michael Bayer, never got past a security checkpoint. He took to Facebook to express his discontent:

messedthisup

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

Pope Francis’s final Mass in the United States has wrapped up with officials handing out Gospels that will be distributed on five continents. Then, the pope offered the final blessing.

“God bless you all,” he said. “Thank you very much for your part and your love of the family. I ask you to pray for me. Don’t forget!”

People laughed and cheered at the final quip.

  • Susan Levine
  • ·
Friends, families and strangers pray on the parkway during the Mass.

Celebrants pray on the parkway during the Mass (Christina Sherwood).

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·
Eucharistic ministers distributing Communion at pope's final mass (Emily Guendelsberger).

Eucharistic ministers distributing Communion at pope’s final mass (Emily Guendelsberger).

350 eucharistic ministers are walking down Benjamin Franklin Parkway distributing Communion wafers to the roughly 1 million faithful who have assembled. It’s quite an operation.

  • Susan Levine
  • ·

On Twitter, #popeinphilly includes scenes and musings that range from hopeful to appreciative to inspiring to comedic.

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

This is the full text of the Vatican translation of pope’s Francis’s prepared remarks during the World Meeting of Families mass:

Today the word of God surprises us with powerful and thought-provoking images. Images which challenge us, but also stir our enthusiasm.

In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate. In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. Here is the surprise: Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow! Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name!

Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did. For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable. The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected.

Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing “scandal” are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly “intolerable” scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit!

Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds. He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for “love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us” first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!

Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.

So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13). May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!

Pointedly, yet affectionately, Jesus tells us: “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13). How much wisdom there is in these few words! It is true that, as far as goodness and purity of heart are concerned, we human beings don’t have much to show! But Jesus knows that, where children are concerned, we are capable of boundless generosity. So he reassures us: if only we have faith, the Father will give us his Spirit.

We Christians, the Lord’s disciples, ask the families of the world to help us! How many of us are here at this celebration! This is itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world. Would that we could all be prophets! Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others!

And how beautiful it would be if everywhere, even beyond our borders, we could appreciate and encourage this prophecy and this miracle! We renew our faith in the word of the Lord which invites faithful families to this openness. It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God!

Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong!

May God grant to all of us, as the Lord’s disciples, the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel!

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

This is a Vatican translation of Pope Francis’s prepared remarks during the World Meeting of Families Mass:

 We Christians, the Lord’s disciples, ask the families of the world to help us! How many of us are here at this celebration! This is itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world. Would that we could all be prophets! Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others!

And how beautiful it would be if everywhere, even beyond our borders, we could appreciate and encourage this prophecy and this miracle! We renew our faith in the word of the Lord which invites faithful families to this openness. It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God!

Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong!

May God grant to all of us, as the Lord’s disciples, the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel!

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

This is a Vatican translation of Pope Francis’s prepared remarks during the World Meeting of Families Mass:

 Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.

So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13). May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!

Pointedly, yet affectionately, Jesus tells us: “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13). How much wisdom there is in these few words! It is true that, as far as goodness and purity of heart are concerned, we human beings don’t have much to show! But Jesus knows that, where children are concerned, we are capable of boundless generosity. So he reassures us: if only we have faith, the Father will give us his Spirit.

  • Justin Jouvenal
  • ·

This is a Vatican translation of Pope Francis’s prepared remarks during the World Meeting of Families Mass:

Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds. He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for “love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us” first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!

Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.

  • Abby Ohlheiser
  • ·

The Mass booklet has special instructions for participation in the Eucharist during the service.

Catholics believe that taking Communion is a reception of the body and blood of Christ, so it’s typically only Catholics who have confessed their sins who are allowed to participate in the celebration of the Eucharist. Others are not invited to take part. On Sunday, the program says, “We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters.”

(Clarification: Non-Catholics were invited to participate in the celebration, but not able to take Communion.)

“Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law,” the program explains.

Non-Christians and others not participating in the Eucharist are asked “to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.”

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