UPDATE 4:45 p.m. EDT: 

Pope Frances arrived at Independence Hall in Philadelphia Saturday to give a speech focused on immigrants, meeting with several before entering the hall where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. The pope's comments come at a time when immigration has become a central issue in the Republican presidential contest, with front-runner Donald Trump pushing for action to allow fewer immigrants into the United States.

“It will be the perfect venue for him to harken back to our roots as a nation, and remind us of our heritage and the principals on which our nation was built,” Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told WNBC, New York.

Original post:

On the last stop of his first U.S. visit, Pope Francis headed straight to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul to celebrate Mass after touching down in Philadelphia Saturday morning, USA Today reported. Once he got off the plane, Francis shook hands with spectators, kissed heads and was greeted by church leaders.

During his homily at Mass Saturday, the pope spoke about how important it is for women to be involved in the Roman Catholic Church. He also talked about how active engagement in the church by all its members at present will help in the planning for the future of Catholic parishes, according to the News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware.

“We know that the future of the church calls for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity,” the New York Times quoted the pontiff as saying.

“Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions,” Francis went on to say, according to the Guardian in the U.K. “This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the spirit pours out upon the church. In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities.”

The pope arrived to music played by students from a high school in Downington, a suburb of Philadelphia. They played “Ode to Joy,” as well as the theme of the film “Rocky,” which is set in the City of Brotherly Love.

Richard Bowes, a Philadelphia police officer who survived a shooting rampage, was also on hand to greet the pontiff, chosen for the distinction after being nominated by the pastor of his church. “Who thinks you are going to meet the pope, that you are going to be close enough to touch him?” USA Today quoted Bowes as saying. “It’s unbelievable.”


Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who originally invited Francis to Philadelphia, met him before he entered the cathedral basilica. When the pope did make his entrance, the people inside applauded and gave him a standing ovation.

After the pontiff began delivering his homily, a crowd of people was seen outside the building attempting to get glimpses of him.

Following the Mass, the pope is scheduled to visit Independence Hall. Sunday, he is expected to meet with bishops, visit a prison and celebrate Mass with the World Meeting of Families before departing for Rome at night.