Greeting of Pope Francis

Greeting of Pope Francis-St  Charles 2Springfield – The World Meeting of Families (WMOF) which took place from September 22nd-26th and was the first held in the Americas, brought thousands from the region, the U.S. and from throughout the world to Philadelphia to attend with its theme being Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive. Historically, the reigning popes would attend some part of the WMOF and this proved to be true for the WMOF held in Philadelphia. Joined to Pope Francis’ memorable and inspirational visits to Cuba, Washington, D.C. and New York City, his visit to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was met with great enthusiasm, excitement and warmth.
From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has taught and modeled a “message of mercy” and this was very much in evidence during his stay in Philadelphia. He spoke on the issue of migrants at Independence Hall; he met and spent time with prisoners in one of the city prisons; he blessed a grotto of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, a particular devotion of the Holy Father; and he met with victims of clergy sexual abuse. These were all highly publicized parts of the itinerary of the Holy Father and rightly so representing for us that our pontiff is a “servant” and “martyr” (to bear witness to the faith) of mercy.
One last example of Pope Francis’ witness to the “Gospel of Mercy” was a pre-arranged but little publicized greeting of the Holy Father upon his arrival at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary- his home for his two day visit. Word was received two months before the pope’s arrival to Philadelphia that a group of residents, nine in all, from the programs of Don Guanella Village, Divine Providence Village and St. Edmond’s Home, along with 2 family members each, the administrators of the programs and I would have the blessing and privilege of greeting and meeting the Holy Father as he entered the grand foyer of the seminary. Much anticipation and excitement accompanied this greeting which would take place on Saturday, September 26th. After the Holy Father was met and greeted outside the main entrance of the seminary by Archbishop Chaput, the seminary rector and the 150 seminarians, he entered into the foyer and immediately began to shake hands, embrace and bless the residents and their family members. You could see the warmth, the love and the spirit of encounter that the Holy Father often speaks of present in the demeanor of the Pope. It brought to mind for me the motto Pope Francis has chosen for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, “merciful like the Father.” In Pope Francis, we beheld the merciful, compassionate and generous love of the Father and the “face of mercy”, His Son Jesus Christ. An incredible, blessed and grace-filled experience for all who greeted Pope Francis that day!

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