Pope Francis in Philadelphia
Pope Francis concludes his U.S. visit with major Mass on Sunday.
7:51 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27: Pope Francis is now on his way back to Rome, concluding his visit to the United States.
Looking at Sunday:
— Pope Francis met with victims of child sexual abuse and promised to hold accountable those responsible for the scandal in the church, delivering a powerful warning to American bishops accused of covering up for pedophile priests instead of reporting them to police. Read more here.
—Francis shared a message of hope and redemption to "a cross-section of suspected killers, rapists, mobsters" at local Philadelphia correctional center. He greeted the men one by one, along with their families, telling them to spend their time behind bars getting their lives back on track.
— Mass at 4 p.m. on Benjamin Franklin Parkway concluded Festival of Families, and the pope's visit to U.S. Organizers are predicting a crowd of 1 million.
--Pope Francis departed for Rome at 8 p.m., ending his visit to the United States.
Pope wraps up U.S. visit with huge Mass
WASHINGTON -- Pope Francis urged hundreds of thousands of the faithful gathered Sunday for the biggest event of his U.S. visit to be open to “miracles of love,” closing out his six-day U.S. tour with a message of hope.
Organizers had predicted a crowd of 1 million for Francis’ open-air Mass, and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway overflowed with the jubilant.
Francis told his listeners that their presence itself was “a kind of miracle in today’s world,” an affirmation of the family and the power of love.
“Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world,” he said.
The Mass — the final event on Francis’ itinerary before the 78-year-old pontiff was to return to Rome — was a brilliant tableau of gold, green and white in the slanted evening sunlight of a mild early-autumn day.
The many people who attended the Mass, endured hours-long lines and airport-style security checks.
Before the Mass, the pope rode through the streets in his open-sided popemobile to the delight of the faithful.
Crowds head toward Mass on Sunday afternoon. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)
The Mass was the biggest event of the pope’s six-day U.S. trip, a journey that also took him to D.C. and New York, where he addressed Congress and the United Nations and called for urgent global action on climate change and poverty.
Earlier Sunday, Pope Francis met with victims of child sexual abuse and promised to hold accountable those responsible for the scandal in the church.
In a gesture of reconciliation just hours before he was to return to Rome, the pontiff praised the victims as “true heralds of mercy” who deserve the church’s gratitude for helping to bring the truth to light.
“God weeps, for the sexual abuse of children cannot be maintained in secret, and I commit to a careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected and that all responsible will be held accountable,” Francis said in Spanish while in the City of Brotherly Love for a big festival on the Catholic family.
Later Sunday, Francis visited a Philadelphia jail to give hope and encouragement to about 100 inmates, included suspected killers, rapists and mobsters. He greeted the men one by one, along with their families, telling them to spend their time behind bars getting their lives back on track.
The pope will visit with organizers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation at 7 p.m. before departing for Rome at 8 p.m.
-The Associated Press and WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report from Philadelphia. Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.