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Just before leaving New York for Philadelphia on Saturday morning, Pope Francis flew over the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants first set foot on American soil.

In a briefing for journalists in Philadelphia, Fr Federico Lombardi said the Pope travelled by helicopter from Downtown Manhattan to JFK airport, accompanied by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan who pointed out the famous landmarks. The small island in the bay of New York, was the gateway for immigrants from all over the world who passed through the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. (photo: news.va)


News reports quote Cardinal Dolan, who was on the papal helicopter, as saying that Pope Francis requested the detour, asking to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants to the U.S. – and the busiest port of entry for immigrants – from 1892 until 1954. The cardinal said the Pope appeared very “commosso” – very “moved” by the sight. The Pope’s family, in fact, was an immigrant family, migrating to Argentina from their native Italy. Migration and immigrants have been important themws for the Holy Father in his papacy.

Fr. Lombardi also told journalists the Pope went into the cockpit of the plane headed for Philadelphia to watch the pilots coming into land on the last leg of his week-long U.S. visit.

The director of the Holy See press office said at times Pope Francis finds the action-packed schedule for the visit tiring, exacerbated by the pain in his legs, for which he receives regular physiotherapy.

Looking ahead to the key events that will mark the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Fr Lombardi said the focus on the family has been a primary goal of the 10-day journey. He noted the Pope has spoken about the subject in Santiago de Cuba, at the White House, to the American bishops, to Congress and to the United Nations. (sources: Vatican Radio, AP).



News reports say that while security was massive in Washington, DC and New York City, people in both cities were still fairly able to move around. However, there seemed to be a notable build up of security in Philadelphia:


AP reports that “heightened security for Pope Francis’ weekend visit remade downtown Philadelphia into a fortified and largely deserted pedestrian mall Friday, with the usual bustle of commuters giving way to anxious anticipation. Concrete barriers, steel fencing and rows of portable toilets lined streets in the vehicle-free zone that went up overnight around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where Francis will participate in a festival Saturday and celebrate Mass on Sunday.

Walking to some areas required passing through airport-style metal detectors, where agents were flagging banned items, such as pocket knives and shaving cream canisters, or walking several blocks out of the way to avoid the security zone. Packs of pilgrims in colorful shirts dotted the sidewalks. On an empty Market Street, downtown’s primary thoroughfare, a man threw a football to friends and people posed for selfies. In some places, law enforcement outnumbered civilians.

Channel 6 Actio News reports: Security continues to get tighter in Center City ahead of the pope’s arrival in Philadelphia. Deadlines are looming for road, highway and bridge closures in Philadelphia and parts of the surrounding area.

“It’s necessary, so that’s what we have to do,” said Claire Martini of West Chester, Pa. Homeland Security is using an underground garage as a staging area across the street from the cathedral. It’s just one of the many signs that security is the primary consideration here. The fencing that’s going up seemingly everywhere is the most visible reminder that it’s anything but business as usual. Eventually, eight-foot tall fencing will close in the event perimeter along the Parkway and beyond. Concrete barriers for the secure vehicle perimeter were out as well. Starting at 6 a.m. Friday, metal detectors will be in place and only residents and business owners will be allowed in. Longtime residents like Tim McLaughlin appreciate the need for security, but he thinks it’s overkill. “I’ve never seen the city closed down the way it has been,” he said. “I think it’s good for security and stuff like that but I think enough is enough.” Security experts say it is necessary post in this post 9/11 world. Mark Camillo has been a high ranking Secret Service and Homeland Security agent. He says crowd size dictates the extraordinary security measures. “The crowd size is probably what’s at the top of the list of concerns. It’s about protecting the crowd from the crowd,” Camillo said. Some reports note that many faithful, including numbers of priests, have been turned away, even though they had proper identification and tickets for the papal events. In many cases, the public simply had no way of knowing that numerous access points would close at designated hours.

Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, wrote the following in an email entitled, “No one saw this coming”: Without warning, the Secret Service decided to ‘update the security plan’ for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia and they shut down all the exhibit booths that were set up in the Marketplace area of the World Meeting of Families … including our Priests for Life booth. You see, the arrival of the Pope to Philadelphia has been preceded by a four-day conference filled with liturgy, praise, teaching, and hundreds of exhibitors from the best Catholic apostolates in the world. Like everyone else, we were blindsided by the announcement that the exhibitors had to pack up their booths a day early.”

Father then referred to the costs involved in a booth and the money that would be lost by the main apostolates involved. Each booth, for example, cost $1,500 for the entire period of the World Meeting of Families – September 22-27 – and there is no sign that that money, or a portion thereof, would be refunded. Exhibitors such as makers of religious items, publishers of Catholic books and spiritual reading, (such as EWTN) etc. also faced costs to have their merchandise delivered to Philadelphia.




(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis participated in a great gathering of families on Saturday evening in Philadelphia, host city of the World Meeting of Families, for a vigil of prayer and a celebration of the family. The following is Chris Altieri’s report for Vatican Radio from Philadelphia:

Hosted by actor Mark Wahlberg, and with a rundown that numbered several A-list personalities and legendary performers including vocalist Aretha Franklin and tenor Andrea Bocelli, the event was punctuated by the testimony of six couples representing various ages and conditions of family life:

An engaged couple from Australia, Camillus O’Kane and Kelly Walsh, whose faith gives them inspiration, courage and direction as they prepare for married life in a cultural context that is not always friendly to the idea of lifelong, selfless commitment.

A Ukrainian immigrant woman and her two sons, one of whom has special needs, and who have struggled to make a life for themselves here in the United States, and whose faith sustains them in their trials.

Nidal Mousa and Nida Joseph, a Christian family from Jordan with their two daughters, Faten and Dema, who minister to people in serious poverty, religious persecution, immigration, and war.

Ifeyinwa and Chidi, a couple from Nigeria with four children, whao are about to celebrate 24 years of marriage and who shared their experience of injury, healing and forgiveness.

Leona and Rudy Gonzales from New York, grandparents and great-grandparents of 12, who offered their witness to the indispensable role of extended family in family life.

Mario and Rosa from Argentina: married 60 years, they spoke of the need for families to rest in God’s providence.

In his own remarks to the participants, Pope Francis put aside his prepared speech, and spoke of the family as God’s great gift, and the most beautiful part of God’s creation. The family is the channel and reflection of God’s own beauty, truth, and goodness. “The family,” founded on the marital love of a man and a woman that alone can generate and nurture life according to God’s own plan, “is like a factory of hope.”

Though there are no perfect families, and though in every family there are tensions, difficulties, conflicts, challenges, there is in the family also the abiding love by which all these can be overcome. “Families have their difficulties, in families we quarrel,” he said. “Sometimes plates can fly and children bring headaches and I won’t speak about mothers-in-law! But in the family there is always light because the love of God, the Son of God opened also that door of love. But just as there are problems in families we must remember there is the light of the Resurrection.”

“Only love is able to overcome,” said Pope Francis, who went on to discuss also the intergenerational nature of the family, calling all present to remember and to care for children and elderly family members. “Children, younger and older are the future, the strength that moves us forward. Grandparents are the living memory of the family, they passed on the faith to us – to look after grandparents and children is the expression of love.”

The stakes are high – indeed they could be no higher. “A People that is not able to look after their children and grandparents is a people that has no future, because it doesn’t have strength or the memory to go forward.”

“God bless you and give you hope,” concluded Pope Francis. “God give you the strength to go forward: lets protect the family – and please pray for me.”

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED PAPAL TEXT: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-thanks-families-for-witnessing-to-truth-goodn

What was it actually like to be at the Prayer Meeting for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia on Saturday night? Vatican Radio’s correspondent Seán Patrick Lovett was there and got a bird’s eye view of the Pope, the performers and the people in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He reports:

The noise is always the same. It starts as a “whoop” and ends as a “yell” – thousands of vocal chords vibrating in unison. And it always means the same thing: he’s arrived.

When Pope Francis arrived on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Saturday night for the Festival of Families, all I could think was: don’t his arms ever get tired? I mean, the Parkway is nearly ten kilometers long and, driving in the popemobile through the immense crowds lining the route since early afternoon, the Pope never stopped waving and blessing to left and right the entire way. My own arms were aching just watching him.

When the papal motorcade drew up beside the massive podium it was in a blaze of flashing police lights, screaming sirens, and roaring security vehicles. I counted 21 motor bikes and 25 bullet-proof behemoths that dwarfed the car they were there to protect. No stopping to drink a cup of maté here, no tossing soccer scarves at the Pope, or even getting closer than a hundred yards to him. Americans, who are used to this kind of thing, are saying they have never seen security like this. Neither have I. Over the past five days I have been searched by the Secret Service, frisked by the FBI, prodded by police, sniffed by bomb squad dogs, and passed through more metal detectors than they have at Heathrow.

But I was talking about Pope Francis and the Family Fest in Philadelphia.

How to describe it? I suppose it was something between a music concert, a variety show, a folk festival, and a multimedia presentation – with the occasional testimony by families thrown in to remind us why we were really there. It was a star-studded evening too: actor/producer, Mark Wahlberg, was master of ceremonies, and singing legend, Aretha Franklin, belted out her very own version of “Amazing Grace”.

Then Pope Francis spoke. Instead of following his prepared speech, he chatted to the gathering about “God’s overflowing love” that resulted in the creation of the world and how the culmination of that creative love is the family.

Thousands of families came from far and wide for the event and didn’t appear in the least deterred – either by the length of the program or by the chill autumn wind that swept down the Parkway. They continued to applaud right to the end. But then, they were making a night of it. For them, the most important event would be the closing Mass on Sunday morning and they weren’t moving. I wish I could say I was as brave




Pope Francis held a private meeting with victims of clerical sex abuse in Philadelphia on Sunday (27th September) and told bishops afterwards that such crimes “must no longer be held in secret” and promised on behalf of the Church “the accountability of all.” He met with three women and two men who had been sexually abused as children. The Pope said he remained “overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm.  I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.”  He thanked the bishops for all they have down to “shine the light of Christ” on the “evil” of the sexual abuse of children. The Pope’s remarks came during an address with bishops attending the World Meeting of Families on the final day of his pastoral visit to the U.S.  (photo: news.va – afp)


The half hour meeting – between 8 and 9 am Sunday – took place at the St Charles Borromeo seminary in Philadelphia on the last day of the Pope’s visit to the United States. The abuse survivors were accompanied by the Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as well as the Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and by Bishop Fitzgerald who heads the local diocesan office for child protection.

In a statement the head of the Holy See press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said the Pope spoke with each survivor, listening to their stories and praying together with them. Fr. Lombardi said the Holy Father expressed his “participation in their suffering” as well as his pain and sense of shame for those who had been abused by members of the clergy. The statement said some of the five victims had also been abused by their teachers or members of their own families. Pope Francis renewed his personal commitment, and that of the whole Church, to ensure that survivors are “listened to and treated with justice”,  that those responsible are punished, and that such crimes are effectively combatted and prevented in the Church and in society. He also thanked the survivors for their “essential contribution” in establishing the truth and embarking on a “path of healing.” (Vatican Radio)