Although brief, it's clear that Pope Francis' first visit to the United States left quite an impression on Americans of all backgrounds and faiths. Throughout the trip, he spoke to Congress, children, Catholics, and more — and in many languages. On Sunday, he presided over Catholic Mass in Philadelphia, where hundreds of thousands of people flooded the city's streets to celebrate with him. During the Mass, the Pope delivered his last homily in the U.S., focusing on family, unity, and love.
It was a fitting address for the so-called "City of Brotherly Love." It was also a fitting address for Pope Francis, who has become known around the world for his transformative views and attempts to modernize the Church. Some parts of the Mass were delivered in Latin, but for the homily, Pope Francis spoke in his native Spanish. He started with his interpretations of the day's Bible readings, in which he explained how Jesus was often criticized for accepting those who weren't part of "God's chosen people." This led to a larger discussion about what it means to accept people who aren't "part of our group," as the Pope put it. It's an appropriate and timely message when you consider the serious divisions we've been tackling as a country lately, from the debate stage to Kim Davis' county clerk office.
Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions.
Pope Francis challenged his audience to work together to overcome the divisions in today's society. He said that as a society, we must "bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development." At a time when so many others want to physically build up walls around our country, it seems that Pope Francis is calling for us to break walls down that divide us as a society — which leads to another one of his points...
On The Future
What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?
While in the U.S., Pope Francis has often emphasized children. He has taken time specifically to meet with children, he has welcomed them to him on the streets, and on Sunday, he put all of it in perspective when he called on the audience to think of the future generation. He made it clear that faith starts at home and it's up to the men and women of today to set a good example for children, particularly when it comes to accepting one another. "Where children are concerned, we are capable of boundless generosity," he said.
Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil ... will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation — whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong.
Like we've seen him do before, Pope Francis preached acceptance and tolerance. It's this sort of thinking that has helped to make Pope Francis so powerful and so important for the Catholic Church. He has been able to modernize the Church by focusing on the basic virtues of tolerance and acceptance.
On Traditional Catholic Values
We renew our faith in the word of the Lord, which invites faithful families to this openness. It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God.
Despite his transformative impact on the Church, Pope Francis still adheres to traditional Catholic values, which he seemed to bring up on Sunday in his mention of the "covenant of man and woman." In other words, don't expect Catholic priests to begin administering same-sex marriages any time soon. Still, it's important to keep in mind his message of tolerance — and his progressive, welcoming nature in relation to previous church leaders.
In his parting words, Pope Francis asked the audience to pray for him — not something you'd expect to hear from the holiest person on Earth. Chalk it up to just another fitting remark from his U.S. tour.