September 29, 2015
Covering several significant topics, Catholics and others of goodwill will not soon forget the powerful messages Pope Francis delivered while on US soil, September 22-27. He expressed our country's historical ties to immigration, religious liberty and the family; he reiterated the importance of caring for the environment, the value of work, the inherent dignity of human life at all stages, the need for cooperation and the existence of hope; he called on individuals to live a life pleasing to God and pressed leaders to serve the needs of their people.
Reflecting on the papal visit, the message - all God's children deserve love - became apparent:
- In an appeal to US Congresspersons to remember their primary duty to "protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face." Archbishop Thomas Wenski, as a guest of Congressman Alcee Hastings, and Bishop Gregory Parkes, as a guest of Congresswoman Gwen Graham, were able to witness this historic event.
- In an address to UN leaders that "no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and rights of other individuals or their social grouping."
- In a positive message brought forth when visibly moved at Ground Zero, calling the Memorial a "hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division."
- In the encouraging words at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia that stated the need for all people to seek forgiveness and urged inmates to make the most of their time in the facility. "May you make possible new opportunities; may you blaze new trails, new paths."
- In a speech given from behind Lincoln's Gettysburg Address lectern that reminded us of our country's beginnings as a "community united by brotherly love" which would become "a haven of religious freedom and tolerance."
- In a talk to bishops participating in the World Meeting of Families that as pastors they should "encourage believers to aim high" and to be vigilantly watchful over their flock "by helping people to lift their gaze at times of discouragement, frustration and failure."
- In a roadside stop to bless a child with cerebral palsy, an unscheduled visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor, an impromptu encounter with a young girl who worries over her undocumented parents, a trip to a Catholic school in Harlem, in heartfelt wishes extended to those served by Catholic Charities, and the list goes on.
Repeatedly and unabashedly throughout his tour, Pope Francis spoke and lived the notion that all God's children deserve love, and in humility revealed his own vulnerabilities when requesting of his pilgrims, "Please pray for me."
Videos of the papal visit to the US and texts of the Holy Father's speeches and homilies can be found on the USCCB website.