Pope Francis is traveling to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Saturday, the third and final stop in a U.S. tour that has included talks with President Barack Obama, an address to the U.S. Congress and a Mass in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden sports arena.
In Philadelphia, Francis will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, visit Independence Mall and attend the World Meeting of Families.
Madison Square Garden Mass
The pontiff wrapped up his busy Friday schedule of events in New York with a Mass before about 20,000 people.
In his homily, Francis said the “people of God” are called upon to contemplate “the great light” of God’s presence among them.
He also urged attendees to reject self-absorption and remember the needy.
The atmosphere inside Madison Square Garden was absolutely electric and almost raucous at times. VOA’s Alexis Christoforous, who attended the Mass, described Pope Francis as a rock star, with people standing, cheering, whistling and chanting “Viva il Papa.” She said many wept with tears of joy during his homily.
The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, thanked the pope for visiting the city. The crowd enthusiastically jumped to its feet and gave Francis a standing ovation that continued for several minutes. The audience seemed quite reluctant to let the pope leave the Garden.
Central Park, East Harlem School
Massive crowds turned out earlier to see the pontiff, 78, ride through Central Park in his popemobile as he waved to thousands of screaming and applauding people ahead of the Mass.
Earlier, he visited Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, where he spoke to students in Spanish, looked at their projects and told them school can become a second home.
Friday morning, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly, Pope Francis exhorted presidents and prime ministers to show leadership in combating climate change and poverty and in protecting refugees fleeing conflicts.
“In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged,” Francis said in Spanish to the dignitaries seated before him in the General Assembly chamber.
He also urged government leaders to take concrete steps “for preserving and improving the natural environment”.
Citing conflicts in “the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries,” as well as in Ukraine, he urged the international community, “particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop … further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities’ and to protect innocent peoples.”
Applause interrupted the pontiff’s lengthy speech, especially when he spoke of the need to protect the environment, aid the poor and educate girls. Before the pope’s arrival, the great hall had a festive atmosphere, with diplomats greeting one another at the start of the annual meeting. Some were taking selfies, others chatted jovially.
9/11 memorial, multifaith service
From the United Nations, the Roman Catholic Church leader traveled to the National September 11 Memorial, the site where the World Trade Center once stood. He greeted relatives of some of the people killed in the terrorist attacks on New York City in 2001. Nearly 3,000 died in attacks on that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
At an interfaith meditation service, Francis prayed for peace for all victims of the September 11 attacks, and healing for the family members and friends they left behind. Addressing God, he said, “Bring your peace to our violent world.”
The pope stood with representatives of other faiths – Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and more – who offered prayers and song to commemorate the memory of those who died and to appeal for peace for all.