Pope Francis praises religious freedom in America, encourages interfaith tolerance [photos]

Standing at the same lectern from which President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address, Pope Francis stood in front of a crowd of 10,000 on Independence Hall late Saturday afternoon. 

His message was one of interfaith tolerance and and understanding, specifically speaking about Philadelphia’s tradition of Quakerism. 

“The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love,” he said.

He went on to thank all those present and listening of all religions who serve “by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant,” he said.

Pope Francis called out to the Hispanic community specifically to tell them he is greeting them with “particular affection,” winning him the loudest applause of the evening.

To recent immigrants in the audience, he said the following;

Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation. You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land. I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood. You are also called to be responsible citizens, and to contribute fruitfully to the life of the communities in which you live. I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within.

Pope Francis ended his speech on Independence Mall by asking everyone to “pray a little” for him. 

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