Pope Francis looked to conclude his historic tour of the U.S. in Philadelphia Sunday. The pontiff has surprised Catholics and non-Catholics alike during his first papal visit to the country, while attempting to unify an evolving flock within the Roman Catholic Church.
Francis was scheduled to meet with bishops at St. Martin’s Chapel at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary outside Philadelphia Sunday morning and follow up the meeting with a visit to a local correctional facility. And the pope did indeed meet with 100 inmates and his remarks were broadcast to 3,000 others in the largest prison in the city. The pontiff's visit to the U.S. has been full of memorable moments, and, despite being in Philadelphia only two days, he made his mark on the City of Brotherly Love.
In a speech Saturday, Francis continued to deliver his message of inclusion and love to immigrants in the U.S. “Do not be ashamed,” the pope told immigrants in a speech on Independence Mall in Philadelphia.
The demographics of the Catholic Church in the U.S. have been changing in recent years. As Mass attendance has dropped, the church has seen a revitalization through a burgeoning Catholic immigrant population.
Scholars have indicated Pope Francis’ visit could help grow the dwindling numbers at Mass. “Surely there’s hope the pope’s visit will revitalize the church in Philadelphia, which is in a state of crisis,” said Terry Rey, an associate professor of religion at Temple University, according to the Wall Street Journal.
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The pontiff showed his support for people with special needs during his visit to Philly, blessing a young boy with cerebral palsy.
Francis also met with victims of sexual abuse in a landmark show of openness on the issue of sexual assault. The Catholic Church has struggled to cope with many widely documented cases of sexual abuse, and the pope’s meeting with sexual-abuse victims was seen as marking a departure from previous pontiffs’ approaches to the problem. “God weeps for the sexual abuse of children,” the New York Times quoted Francis as saying.