On the Apostolic Visit to Cuba and the United States
On Wednesday, September 30, 2015 Pope Francis reflected on his journey to Cuba and the United States which he had completed recently. He noted that the trip was planned because of his desire to be present at the World Meeting of Families.
The Holy Father saw himself as a “Missionary of Mercy” in Cuba, to show the people that mercy is “greater than any wound, any conflict, any ideology.” He wished to show unity with the Cuban people and made a pilgrimage to a Marian Shrine of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre (Patroness of Cuba). The pope saw this trip with hope of an openness between Cuba and the world: “No more closure, no more exploitation of poverty, but freedom in dignity.” Moving from Cuba to the United States, the pope said, was an “an emblematic passage, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt.” He noted that it is human beings who build walls, while God builds bridges.
In the United States, the pope visited Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.
In the Capital city, Pope Francis met with diverse groups of people and stressed the importance of fidelity to the nation’s “fundamental principles,” such as those noted in the Constitution. He celebrated the canonization of Saint Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Serra being a saint who shared the love of God with the people of California. Finally, the pope noted in D.C. that, “The United States of America was born and grew on this religious and moral basis, and on this basis it can continue to be a land of freedom and hospitality and cooperate towards a more just and fraternal world.”
Turning to his visit to New York City, the pope spoke briefly of his visit to the United Nations, where he spoke of care for creation and also appealed for the end of violence against religious and ethnic minorities throughout the world. At the Ground Zero Memorial, the pope joined with an interreligious and ecumenical group to pray for peace. He continued this prayer for peace and justice at Mass in Madison Square Garden.
In both of these cities, the Holy Father was able to meet with the poor and marginalized who are served by the Catholic communities there.
Describing it as the “climax” of the trip, Pope Francis spoke of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. “The family, namely the fruitful bond between man and woman, is the answer to the great challenge of our world,” he said. The family “balances the personal and the communal dimension” and thus contributes to a human society and a valuing of the environment. The pope spoke in Philadelphia of the family as the “leading subject of an integral ecology” in the way that it demonstrates the two principles of communion and fruitfulness. He pointed to Scripture as giving humanity this “icon”: “the human couple, united and fecund, placed by God in the garden of the world, to cultivate and protect it.”
Pope Francis finished the audience with his gratitude to Archbishop Chaput, “for his commitment, his piety, his enthusiasm and his great love of the family in the organization of this event.” He said that it was providential that a land known for its economic and technical development had not denied its “religious roots,” and said that “these roots themselves ask to begin again from the family to rethink and change the model of development, for the good of the entire human family.”