Pope Francis leaves U.S. after historic first visit

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PHILADELPHIA (WHTM) – Pope Francis is returning to Rome at the end of a 6-day, 3-city visit to the United States that ended with a celebration of Mass at the World Meeting of Families.

Francis boarded his American Airlines chartered plane at Philadelphia International Airport after thanking church leaders and others who organized his trip. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill were among those at the airport.

On the last day of his stop in Philadelphia and his first visit to the U.S., Francis spoke to hundreds of thousands who crowded into the Benjamin Franklin Parkway area to listen to his words and hopefully catch a glimpse of him waving from his passing motorcade.

In his homily, he said small gestures of tenderness, love and compassion are signs of God’s living presence, and he called on his listeners to be open to the miracles of love for the good of all families of the world.

He said happiness and holiness come from those small gestures we make in everyday life.

His day began where he spent the night, at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he met with five victims of child sexual abuse. He told the three women and two men that he deeply regrets that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children.

“I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed,” he said.

The pope then told 300 bishops and others at the seminary that the crimes and sins of sexual abuse of children cannot be kept secret any longer. He promised that those responsible will be held accountable.

He then met with a group of inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. He told then to use their time in prison to get their lives back on track, and he said the suggestion that people can’t change is a lie.

The World Meeting of Families this week and was the original reason that Francis came to the United States. Church officials announced that the next Vatican-sponsored event, in 2018, will be held in Dublin, Ireland.

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