I'll Be There: Personal Reflections on Pope Francis in Philadelphia

2 October 2015
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2 October 2015, Comments: Comments Off on I’ll Be There: Personal Reflections on Pope Francis in Philadelphia

WMF15 Festival of Families StreetIt was a whirlwind trip to the USA last week for Pope Francis and we followed his progress from Washington DC to New York with interest as we attended the Congress of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The city also eagerly anticipated his arrival – banners bearing his image fluttered on giant poles; tons of water bottles were stacked on street corners; memorabilia overflowed in shop windows and hundreds of barriers were winched into place in preparation for the arrival of the Holy Father and 1,000,000 pilgrims on the weekend. Following are some personal reflections by members of the English and Welsh delegation on that historic event:

MFL Girls WMF15

“What stays with me in particular is his address to the thousands gathered in Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday evening – he spoke with his whole body, with such infectious joy and animation, about the beauty of love, born in the family. He asked us to nurture this, and also to look after young couples preparing for the beautiful vocation of family life, and older people who must not be allowed to feel neglected and abandoned.”

“The preparations for the papal visit were immense and it was interesting that the level of security was far greater than that provided for a presidential visit. The local people were so delighted to see him as he drove past and there was an almost frenzied excitement, similar perhaps to what Jesus may have experienced entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Perhaps it is because they both have a clear message of living love to share!”

WMF15 Philadelphia Street“I watched his arrival on TV and it seemed to me that he walked off those aeroplane steps with a broader smile and a lighter heart that at any of the other places he had visited so far in this trip to the United States. His embrace of Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia was the warm greeting of a man coming home to friends. Philadelphia was ready with an equally warm embrace for him. Everyone in the city was in a good mood, even the security personnel who lined the streets and chatted to us while we waited behind the safety barriers for his parade. The ‘city of brotherly love and sisterly affection’ lived up to its name in its generous welcome of Pope Francis and all of us who were there just because he was.”JW's-Love-photo

“The Pope’s visit to Philly came at the end of a very punishing schedule for him. He must have been exhausted and yet still spoke entirely ‘off the cuff’ at the Festival of Families using little jokes to engage and speak directly to the people gathered and watching on TV. It was wonderful to see him and be part of the huge crowd that waited for hours on the streets of Philadelphia for the parade on the Saturday.”

“It was fitting that the World Meeting of Families was held in the ‘city of brotherly love and sisterly affection’ because that is what we experienced in every church, in every restaurant, hotel and on the packed streets of Philadelphia last weekend. In the city the excitement and anticipation of Pope Francis’ arrival was palpable on Saturday as people chatted, shared food, and talked about their family experiences and faith journeys. When the Holy Father finally did appear the daylight was almost gone, but thousands of pilgrims who had been waiting patiently on the streets for hours to catch a glimpse of him shouted with joy, eyes filled with tears and faces wreathed with joy.  It was amazing to experience the ‘Francis-effect’ in action.”

Final sights of Philly (6)

“Pope Francis is always described as a warm and humble man; the experience of being in Philadelphia during his visit has affirmed this for me.  I can’t put into words how much I have been touched by him. His central message to me has been the need for love of all humanity and the world we live in – with the family being the example of unconditional and true love in all its guises, stages, messiness and lived experience.”

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