Pope Francis left Philadelphia and returned to Rome Sunday, Sept. 27 after his first visit to the U.S. He visited three cities and kept a busy schedule while here. Some BYU students followed the Pope’s travels and learned from his insights.
Pope Francis arrived in the U.S. Tuesday, Sept. 22. The next day he met with President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. and became the first pope to address Congress. He spoke about immigration, religious freedom, defending human life and environmental deterioration.
Serene Papenfuss, a student at BYU, kept up with the pope’s activities and speeches while he was in the U.S.
“I read it in the news every day,” Papenfuss said. “When he spoke at the joint session of Congress, he addressed issues that Democrats are fighting for as well as Republicans. It was interesting to hear his passion for environmental issues.”
On Thursday, Sept. 24, Pope Francis was scheduled to have dinner with the members of Congress but instead decided to be with the poor and homeless.
Louisa Greear, a student at BYU, didn’t follow the Pope’s travels, but she read articles about him when they were posted on social media. “I appreciated the outreach he had to different groups,” Greear said. “I especially like the wonderful dinner he had with the poor.”
Pope Francis conducted his first U.S. mass at Madison Square Garden in front of 20,000 people, with many lining the street.
“The people have seen a great light,” Francis said during mass. “The people who walked with all their dreams and hopes, their disappointments and regrets, the people have seen a great light … a light meant to shine.”
Nellie Ashby, an executive secretary in the Kennedy Center, said she learned a few things from the Pope during his speeches. “During one speech I was listening to, he mentioned that Americans are from the land of the free and home of the truly brave,” Ashby said. “I thought to myself that I could be more brave and represent our country better.”
The next morning Francis visited Ground Zero to pay respect to those who lost their lives. “For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace,” Francis said at the 9/11 Memorial site.
Many people who attended the Pope’s visit to the Ground Zero site had lost loved ones on 9/11.
Francis held a prayer service at Ground Zero. It was held at the Foundation Hall of the Memorial Museum, a museum commemorating the events of 9/11. Pope Francis invited religious leaders to join him in prayer. These different religious leaders were Catholic, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs.
Pope Francis arrived in Philadelphia Saturday morning, where he joined in the World Meeting of Families. He spoke in the Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This was his third major address. Pope Francis spoke about wealth and power, freedom of religion, gay rights and healthcare.
Pope Francis met with victims of clerical sex abuse before his departure on Sunday. “I hold the stories and the suffering and the sorrow of the children who were sexually abused by priests deep in my heart,” Francis told the victim. “I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry.”
The Pope returned back to Rome Sunday afternoon.