By Gabrielle Beacken
Nation & World Editor
Having travelled from Washington, D.C., to New York, to Philadelphia, Pope Francis, 78, ended his 10-day trip to the United States, on Sunday, Sept. 28.
Pope Francis began his American tour with a visit to the White House and delivered a speech to Congress while in the nation’s captiol he spoke in English, rather than his native Spanish, he urged Congress to prevent another government shutdown.
“Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs… thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples,” Francis said to Congress, as reported in the Times. “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity… for the common good.”
Pope Francis promoted immigration reform, environmental legislation and strongly opposed the death penalty. Yet, the Pope did not entangle himself too deep in American politics. Throughout the trip he did oppose the death penalty, but did not mention the controversy around abortion. According to the Times, Pope Francis focused on notions of “interfaith” and “harmony” when he addressed religious freedom, which many American bishops have encountered with problems.
“I was frankly taken aback at how savvy he was,” said Stephen Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America to the Times. “He was clearly aware of all the very divisive issues for Catholics in American public life but talked about them in a way that didn’t give ammunition to either conservatives or progressives.”
In his first day in New York, almost 2,500 nuns, priests and lay people filled St. Patrick’s Cathedral Church in Manhattan. A particularly receptive portion of the pope’s speech at St. Patrick’s was when he thanked religious women and nuns of America.
“What would the church be without you?” Pope Francis said of the religious women in America, according to a Times report. “Women of strength with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel.”
While in New York, Pope Francis spoke to the United Nations, young school children in Harlem and families of 9/11 victims at ground zero, according to the Times. The Pope celebrated mass at Madison Square Garden and took his popemobile for a ride through Central Park.
Pope Francis spoke at the World Meeting of Families and Independence Hall. At the families event, Pope Francis substituted his prepared speech for an animated non-scripted dialogue.
On Sunday, Francis held meetings with victims of clergy abuse, conducted Mass in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and visited prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
After babies were kissed and a mass with nearly a million people in attendace, the pope headed back to Rome.
“As I prepare to leave, I do so with a heart filled with gratitude and hope,” Pope Francis said at Philadelphia International Airport upon his departure, according to the Times.