Pope Francis urged hundreds of thousands of the faithful gathered Sunday for the biggest event of his U.S. visit to be open to “miracles of love,” closing out his joyful six-day trip with a message of hope for families, consolation for victims of child sexual abuse and a warning to America’s bishops.
The wide Benjamin Franklin Parkway overflowed with the jubilant, who stood in line for hours and endured airport-style security checks to see history’s first pope from the Americas celebrate an open-air Mass in the birthplace of the United States.
The Mass — the last major event on Francis’ itinerary before the 78-year-old pontiff took off on the flight home to Rome — was a brilliant tableau of gold, green, white and purple in the evening sunlight of a mild early-autumn day.
Riding through the streets in his open-sided popemobile, the pontiff waved to cheering, screaming, singing, flag-waving crowds and kissed babies as he made his way to the altar at the steps of the columned Philadelphia Museum of Art.
With a towering golden crucifix behind him, Francis told his listeners that their presence itself was “a kind of miracle in today’s world,” an affirmation of the family and the power of love.
“Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world,” he said to the hushed crowd spread out along the tree-lined boulevard.
Crowds a mile away fell silent during the Communion part of the Mass. Some people knelt on the paving stones at City Hall, a few blocks from the altar.
June Bounds, 56, of Rochester, New York, watched with fellow parishioners on a large screen at City Hall, closing her eyes and blinking back tears.
“It’s very overwhelming,” she said. “You feel like you’re one body with everyone here, whether you’re here, whether you’re back home, whether you’re anywhere in the world.”
Of the pope, she said: “He’s brought so much joy and holy spirit into the United States. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Catholic; he’s just trying to unite everybody for a better world.”
Organizers had predicted 1 million people would attend the Mass. There was no immediate estimate of the crowd. But some people got tired of waiting in line and gave up, while others may have been scared away altogether by the heavy security and weeks of dire warnings from the city about the potential disruptions.
Train ridership was lower than expected, downtown hotel rooms went unfilled over the weekend, normally bustling city streets were deserted, some businesses closed early, and many Philadelphians complained that the precautions were oppressive.
Earlier in the day, Francis had a more solemn message for families scarred by the sins of the church itself.
The pope met with five victims of child sexual abuse and told them he was “deeply sorry” for the times they came forward to tell their stories and weren’t believed. He assured them that he believes them and that bishops who covered up for abusers will be made to answer for what they did.
“I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead,” Francis said in Spanish. “Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”
Minutes later, he went into a meeting of bishops from the U.S. and around the world who were in town for a Catholic festival on the family and told them the same thing.
“God weeps” over what was done to the youngsters, he lamented.
The pope has agreed to create a new Vatican tribunal to prosecute bishops who failed to protect their flock, and he has accepted the resignations of three U.S. bishops accused of mishandling abuse cases.
During his first meeting with victims, held at the Vatican in July 2014, Francis similarly vowed to hold bishops accountable, but Sunday marked the first time that he warned the bishops themselves, face-to-face, and in public.
Full article: http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2015/09/27/as-many-as-a-million-expected-for-popes-last-mass-in-us