In his popemobile, the Holy Father tours the grounds of Independence Hall, all the while smiling and greeting the faithful. In his address on immigration, the Pope urged his audience, especially those who are immigrants, to always be proud of who they are. John Blaine photo
In his popemobile, the Holy Father tours the grounds of Independence Hall, all the while smiling and greeting the faithful. In his address on immigration, the Pope urged his audience, especially those who are immigrants, to always be proud of who they are. John Blaine photo

By Rosemary Daniels | Correspondent

After a full afternoon of multi-cultural presentations at the World Meeting of Families at Independence Mall in Philadelphia, the main speaker made his entrance. After taking a loop around the perimeter in the famous “pope-mobile” and blessing several young children, Pope Francis arrived on stage to the sounds of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

In his initial remarks, and indeed throughout his entire speech, the pope acknowledged Philadelphia as the place where “the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed.” He pointed out that the rights for which the early Americans fought so hard, have to consistently be “re-affirmed, re-appropriated, and defended.”

Himself a child of immigrants, the pontiff gave a special welcome to the immigrants in the audience. He told them not to be discouraged, and assured them that they bring great gifts to their new country. Most importantly, he said, “You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land….You are also called to be responsible citizens, and to contribute fruitfully to the life of the communities in which you live. I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within.”

He urged the various religions to work together for peace, tolerance and respect in a world where religion is being repressed or reduced to a subculture. He also talked about a world subject to globalization, which “seeks to eliminate all differences and traditions in a superficial quest for unity.” He continued that globalization does not have to be bad, if it recognizes each person’s individuality, and “respects differences and values them as such.”

The pontiff also thanked people of all religions who have cared for people in need and defending life in all its stages. “All too often, the most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard.”

Although the pope made his address in Spanish, a language unfamiliar to a majority of those attending, the crowd paid close attention to the translations supplied on the large screens, and responded enthusiastically to all of his main points.

John Maguire, director of religious education at St. Paul Parish, Princeton, attended the event, and observed, “Though the entire speech was in Spanish, and I speak only English, I was happy to see Pope Francis address in Spanish because his is most comfortable in his language and his passion showed so clearly. I was particularly moved by his leading of the Lord’s prayer.”

As he has with so many events, the pope ended his remarks with a request to pray for him. The faithful of Philadelphia and the world seemed happy to do that for this very unique bishop of Rome.