In his weekly General Audience address, Pope Francis said his Apostolic Visit to Cuba and the United States was an emblematic step and that it was not by chance that the World Meeting of Families took place in this crucial moment in U.S. history.
The Pope began by thanking Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama, as well as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for their welcome. He also took a moment to thank the bishops of both countries.
“I wholeheartedly thank my brother Bishops and all the collaborators for the great work accomplished and for the love of the Church that animated it,” he said.
Regarding his first stop in Cuba, the Pope emphasized that he came as a “missionary of mercy” and that God’s mercy was greater than every wound, conflict and ideology.
The Pope also said that he shared with the people the hope of the fulfillment of St. John Paul II’s prophecy: “that Cuba would be open to the world and the world open to Cuba.”
“No more closures, no more exploitation of poverty, but freedom in dignity,” he said.
“This is the path that shakes the hearts of many young Cubans: not a way of escape of easy money, but of responsibility, of service to others, of the care of the weak. A path that draws strength from the Christian roots of the people, who have suffered so much. A path in which I encouraged especially the priests and all consecrated persons, students and families.”
Regarding his passage from Cuba to the United States, the Holy Father said it was symbolic of the bridge being rebuilt by God between the two countries.
“God always wants to build bridges; it is we who build walls! And the walls always fall down,” he said.
In the United States, the Pope said that he was reminded of the country’s rich spiritual and ethical patrimony. The 78 year old Pontiff also that said he came there to encourage their founding principles: “that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
These rights, he said, are rooted in the Gospel and are exemplified in the life of Saint Junipero Serra, who the Pope canonized in Washington, D.C.
“Saint Junipero shows the path of joy: to go and share with others the love of Christ. This is the path of the Christian, but also of every man that has known love: to not keep for himself but to share it with others. The United States of America was born and raised on this religious and moral foundation, and on this foundation they can continue to be a land of liberty and welcome and to cooperation to a more just and fraternal world.
Regarding his visit to New York City, the Pope said he was following the footsteps of his predecessors in addressing the United Nations and encouraged their role in promoting development and peace as well as the need for a commitment in the care of creation.
He also recalled the interreligious prayer service at Ground Zero, site of the September 11th terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center.
The ‘Prism’ of the Family
Continuing his address, Pope Francis said that the final leg of his trip took on a global dimension through the “prism” of the family.
“The family, that is, the fruitful covenant between man and woman, is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a double challenge: fragmentation and massification, two extremes which coexist and support each other, and together they support the economic model of consumerism.”
“The family is the answer because it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and community dimension, and that at the same time can be the model of a sustainable management of goods and resources of creation.”
The Pope stressed that the family is the protagonist of an integral ecology because through them, the two principles of human civilization are developed: communion and fruitfulness.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis gave a special thanks to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia for his commitment, enthusiasm and love for the family.
The Pope said that it was not by chance that the World Meeting of Families took place in this time in the nation’s history. The religious roots of the United States, he said, “call to come out from the family to rethink and change the pattern of development for the good of the entire human family.”