Philadelphia kept Pope Francis busy all day on Saturday, and his Sunday schedule shows no signs of letting up.
After landing in the city on Shepherd One, greeted by an enthusiastic crowd and a host of dignitaries, the 78-year-old pontiff celebrated Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, where he delivered some pointed messages about the role of women and laity in the church. From there, he visited a college of seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo, greeted by a chorus in Latin. The pope met with bishops at the seminary and rested briefly before traveling in his motorcade to Independence Mall for an address about religious liberty and immigration.
From there, Pope Francis took a spin through Philadelphia and up the parkway along faithful throngs, waving from his pope-mobile. He closed out a long day at the Festival of Families, which featured performances sacred and secular from Aretha Franklin, The Fray, Sister Sledge and Andrea Boccelli on stage at Eakins Oval. The pope spoke about the importance of family and called on everyone to protect children and the elderly. Despite the occasional headaches, said the pontiff, “family is ike a factory of hope, a factory of resurrection.”
Thick crowds who had been gathering — and waiting — all day did not seem disappointed, and the mood through the city all day was festive and cheerful.
Pope addresses sex abuse
This morning, the pope met with his bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he was warmly received. Archbishop Charles Chaput introduced the pope in St. Martin’s Chapel, thanking him for his inspiration to Catholic families. He made a direct comment about “same-sex issues” in contrast to families living the way God intended.
The pope went off-script before delivering his scheduled remarks, addressing directly and pointedly the scandal of sexual abuse of minors in the church. He pledged to ensure that youth are protected and that all responsible for their abuse will be held accountable. “Those who survived have become true heralds of mercy,” he said. ”We owe each of them our gratitude.”
Francis came out swinging with remarks that focused on the cultural and judicial effects of contemporary society on marriage and familial bonds.
“These changes affect all of us, believers and non-believers alike,” he said. “Christians are not immune to the changes of their times.”
He characterized the world around us as rapidly changing and at times hostile environment that modern Christians must adapt to, but not at the cost of core beliefs, to not be satisfied by living without a family. He encouraged young people to choose family life and be fruitful, and he encouraged his brother bishops to not hesitate in their mission.
“Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond with anything or anyone, not to trust. The most important thing nowadays seems to be follow the latest trend or activity. This is even true of religion,” the pope said.
“Social bonds are a mere means for the satisfaction of ‘my needs.’ The important thing is no longer our neighbor,” he said. “The result is a culture which discards everything that is no longer useful or satisfying,” creating a “radical sense of loneliness.“
Yet he urged compassion for children “born into this difficult yet beautiful creation.” “Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world?” he asked. Rather than lament the good old days, he encouraged the clergy “to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time.”
‘To share your situation and to make it my own’
Pope Francis left the seminary via helicopter and arrived at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia’s Holmsburg neighborhood minutes later. He met about 95 inmates and unconvicted accused detainees.
Sitting in a chair that had been built for him by inmates at the prison, the pontiff spoke compassionately to the prisoners “as a pastor, but above all, as a brother.”
His message was primarily that we are all alike, we all need help, and we are all invited to the table. Above all, his message to the prisoners was that they are not fogotten.
“Life means ‘getting our feet dirty’ from the dust-filled roads of life and history,” he said. “All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed.” Going off-script, he indicated that he especially counted himself among those who need to be cleansed.
With a nod to the need for a just and fair prison system, Francis said, “It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society.”
After the formal address, Francis left the stage to meet prisoners individually. He told them, “The chair is beautiful. Thank you very much for the hard work.”
Next … the Mass
The papal mass on the parkway is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
NewsWorks will have updates thoughout the day.