Aussies Join Hundreds of Thousands for Pope's Final Mass of US Visit

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
28 Sep 2015

The Australian contingent preparing to head off to the
final Mass

Hundreds of thousands of people crowded the streets and parks leading to Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia for Pope Francis' final Mass of his historic  US visit before returning to the Vatican.

And an enthusiastic group of Australian delegates and families who have spent the past week in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families - including the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, were right in there amongst them.

Organisers were expecting close to one million people and they were certainly not disappointed.

Every vantage point was taken and for those who couldn't get within a couple of kilometres of the altar there were huge screens so all could see and hear the 78-year old pontiff's final message to the American people.

Archbishop Anthony said: "Pope Francis spoke of the generosity of God which is unconstrained by 'bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles' and of the scandalous alternatives that undermine trust in the working of the Spirit. He said holiness is tied to little gestures we learn in the family home, little signs of tenderness and compassion, such as the warm supper we look forward to at night, a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after a hard day's work. Jesus tells us not to hold back these 'little miracles', these little signs of love, that testify to his living and active presence in our world.

Between 800,000 and one million people crowded the
street in Philadelphia for the Pope's last words to the
people of the U.S

"The defence of our common home, the earth, and the sustainable and integral development of the entire human family, will require that 'our children find in us models and incentives to communion'. Pope Francis thought the gathering of (perhaps 860,000) people at the World Meeting of Families was a prophetic sign, a kind of miracle. It testifies to the possibility that through families we can 'overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others' - for families generate life and reveal God.

" The Holy Father concluded with 'May God grant to all of us, as the Lord's disciples, the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel!'" Archbishop Anthony said.

Prior to the Mass Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at St Joseph's University to view a newly dedicated statue commemorating the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II document that helped bolster the relationship between the Catholic and Jewish faiths.

A Jesuit university, St Joseph's established the institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations in 1967 in response to the Vatican's call for strengthening the interfaith relationship.

Earlier in the day he met privately with a group of clergy sex abuse victims. He said grievous harm has been caused by the clergy sex abuse scandal that has married the church for more than a decade and he promised to hold those responsible for such offenses accountable.

Next year's World Meeting of Families will be held in
Ireland in 2018

Pope Francis also visited a correctional facility where he met dozens of inmates, speaking to them of forgiveness and redemption.

Overall Pope Francis's visit to three cities in Cuba and then three in the United States - Washington DC, New York and  Philadelphia - has been a great success. In the last few days alone he has addressed a Joint meeting of the US Congress, also addressed the United Nations, "played" Madison Square Garden, the home of the  Knicks basketball team but in his case attracted 20,000 to Mass, visited a correctional centre, seminary,  home for the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Ground Zero, met with a President, clergy, families, sex abuse victims, the disabled and  kissed countless babies during countless motorcades between venues.

A huge six-day schedule for anyone, let alone a man approaching 80 years of age.

And it was a big week for the Australians in Philadelphia as well.

In the words of  Archbishop Anthony; "At the end of our WMF pilgrimage the Aussies had a dinner together and talked movingly about their experiences and learning during the week.

"All agreed it had been a tremendous time together and that we will return with much to share with our families, parishes and dioceses. God Bless Archbishop Charles Chaput O.F.M. Cap. and all the organisers of the World Meeting of Families! God bless Pope Francis!"