By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 September, 2015
The Pope made his appeal in his homily at Mass at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia the final leg of his pastoral visit to the US.
Later today he will celebrate an outdoor Mass for over a million pilgrims at the World Meeting of Families.
The Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul was attended by 1,200 people and concelebrated with bishops and priests. The Pontiff also gave a speech on religious freedom and immigration at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
In his homily, Pope Francis paid tribute to Philadelphia’s history and said it was a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society.
“That story is seen in the many shrines which dot this city, and the many parish churches whose towers and steeples speak of God’s presence in the midst of our communities. It is seen in the efforts of all those dedicated priests, religious and laity who for over two centuries have ministered to the spiritual needs of the poor, the immigrant, the sick and those in prison,” he said.
The Pope said it was also seen in the hundreds of schools where religious brothers and sisters trained children to read and write, to love God and neighbour, and to contribute as good citizens to the life of American society.
One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation, the Pope said, is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfil that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world.
“This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.”
Referring to the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis asked the faithful “to reflect on our ministry to families, to couples preparing for marriage, and to our young people”.
“I know how much is being done in your local Churches to respond to the needs of families and to support them in their journey of faith. I ask you to pray fervently for them, and for the deliberations of the forthcoming Synod on the Family.”
As his visit to New York came to a close, Pope Francis flew over New York’s Statue of Liberty and the former immigration station of Ellis Island aboard a helicopter on Saturday, in an unscheduled detour, according to New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Flying to JFK International Airport to take a plane to Philadelphia, the Pope asked the helicopter pilot to circle the landmarks, Cardinal Dolan said.