Vatican City, 28 September 2015 (VIS) – Following Holy Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Pope travelled by car to the airport in Philadelphia where he embarked on his return flight to Rome. He was welcomed at the airport by five hundred people, mostly members of the Organising Committee and volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families, as well as the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden. The Holy Father expressed his gratitude to them and to the families who had shared their witness during the Meeting.
“It is not so easy to speak openly of one’s life journey! But their honesty and humility before the Lord and each of us showed the beauty of family life in all its richness and diversity. I pray that our days of prayer and reflection on the importance of the family for a healthy society will inspire families to continue to strive for holiness and to see the Church as their constant companion, whatever the challenges they may face”.
The Pope thanked all those who had prepared for his stay in the archdioceses of Washington, New York and Philadelphia. “It was particularly moving for me to canonise St. Junipero Serra, who reminds us all of our call to be missionary disciples, and I was also very moved to stand with my brothers and sisters of other religions at Ground Zero, that place which speaks so powerfully of the mystery of evil. Yet we know with certainty that evil never has the last word, and that, in God’s merciful plan, love and peace triumph over all”.
He asked the vice president, Joe Biden, to renew his gratitude to President Obama and to the Members of Congress, together with the assurance of his prayers for the American people. “This land has been blessed with tremendous gifts and opportunities”, he remarked. “I pray that you may all be good and generous stewards of the human and material resources entrusted to you”.
“I thank the Lord that I was able to witness the faith of God’s people in this country, as manifested in our moments of prayer together and evidenced in so many works of charity. Jesus says in the Scriptures: 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me'. Your care for me and your generous welcome are a sign of your love for Jesus and your faithfulness to Him. So too is your care for the poor, the sick, the homeless and the immigrant, your defence of life at every stage, and your concern for family life. In all of this, you recognise that Jesus is in your midst and that your care for one another is care for Jesus Himself.
“As I leave, I ask all of you, especially the volunteers and benefactors who assisted with the World Meeting of Families: do not let your enthusiasm for Jesus, His Church, our families, and the broader family of society run dry. May our days together bear fruit that will last, generosity and care for others that will endure. Just as we have received so much from God –gifts freely given us, and not of our own making – so let us freely give to others in return”.
“Dear friends, I embrace all of you in the Lord and I entrust you to the maternal care of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. I will pray for you and your families, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. May God bless you all. God bless America!” concluded Francis.
At 8 p.m. local time (2 a.m., 28 September in Rome), the aircraft carrying the Holy Father departed from Rome, where it landed this morning at 9.58 a.m. On the way back to the Vatican he paused at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the image of the Salus Populi Romani and to thank the Virgin for the fruits of this apostolic trip.