Capping six-day U.S. trip, pope hails families instilling faith - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Capping six-day U.S. trip, pope hails families instilling faith

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(Image Source: Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette) (Image Source: Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)

By Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PHILADELPHIA — Pope Francis on Sunday met the largest audience of his historic six-day U.S. visit with words and actions that embodied his topsy-turvy gospel — one in which the petty religious bureaucrats are perverting the faith and the humble, loving children and grandparents are fulfilling it.

Hundreds of thousands of people jammed every flat surface in and around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the open-air Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis as the final event of his trip before his airport departure to Rome. He presided at an altar on a landing high up on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Central Philadelphia became a cathedral of reverent and well-behaved pilgrims from around the world, hailing from lands as diverse as Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cuba, where the pope visited before coming to the United States.

The congregation included mostly Roman Catholics but also other admirers of the Argentine pope-turned folk hero. Numerous groups and individuals from the Pittsburgh region joined others who filled the air with words and songs of many languages.

With an intensive security presence throughout the city center, many pilgrims waited for hours to get in through metal detectors and bag searches — if they got in at all. Thousands more settled for watching the proceedings on big screens outside the parkway security perimeter, beyond the reach of the elaborate network of priests who fanned out to serve the sacrament.

“We wanted to receive communion from the pope, but then we’re all in communion,” said Marianne Lyonnais of the Canadian province of Quebec, who came with her husband and five children in a group of about 200. They and hundreds others were crowded at 17th Street and the parkway, more than a mile from the altar, heartily singing contemporary hymns for hours before Mass, accompanied by her son on guitar.

Pope Francis emerged, if anything, with his image of simplicity and holiness only amplified.

“I love Pope Francis,” Kristof Oltvai, 21, who works in campus ministry at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh and accompanied a student group to this Mass. “He was kind of the reason I converted to Catholicism. Seeing him here was like a consummation of that for me.”

Boys from Central Catholic High School and girls from Oakland Catholic High School claimed spots in front of one of the large screens displaying the telecast of the Mass. Other pilgrim groups from the Diocese of Pittsburgh (wearing black and gold) and area Catholic colleges and parishes also found locations.

Pope Francis invoked the regularly scheduled Scripture readings for what could have amounted to a manifesto of his reformist papacy.

He has taken actions to streamline a notoriously log-jammed Vatican bureaucracy while streamlining access to sacraments for those estranged from the church. His message comes just before an October synod, or bishops summit, next month in Rome on the topic of the family, with debate expected on the role of gays, divorced-and-remarried persons and others on the church’s margins.

In the Mass readings, both Moses and Jesus rebuked their followers for being so “narrow” as to denounce people who had been doing prophetic works in the name of God, even though they weren’t in the inner circle of disciples.

“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,” Pope Francis said. “Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!”

He paid tribute to the “quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children.”

Just preparing warm meals or speaking gently, is “itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world,” the pope said.

“Would that we could all be prophets!” he continued. “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!”

He said Jesus’ disciples “acted in good faith” when they tried to stop someone from acting in Jesus’ name.

“But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith,” he said. “Hence it must be vigorously rejected.”

He added: “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!”

The phrase was an echo of his participation in an interfaith memorial service last week at ground zero of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City.

Also Sunday at Saint Joseph’s University, Pope Francis helped dedicate a new statue marking the 50th anniversary of a Vatican document, Nostra Aetate, that dramatically improved relations between Catholics and Jews. Joining him was Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a longtime friend from Argentina.

Pope Francis demonstrated his vision of inclusion in other ways Sunday, from visiting inmates at a local prison to stopping his motorcade through the Benjamin Franklin Parkway numerous times before Mass, blessing and kissing babies who were brought to him.

The pontiff drew chuckles from the crowd when he concluded the Mass by saying in gentle, accented English: “Pray for me. Don’t forget.”

The visit concluded a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C.; New York City and Philadelphia by the Argentine pope in the first U.S. visit by the first pope ever to come from the Americas. The visit drew anticipation and enthusiasm that recalled the first major tour of the nation by a pope — John Paul II in 1979, which was also the last time a pope visited this city.

Heavy security measures for Pope Francis drew some criticism, but the trip concluded without major incident.

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