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Pope Bids Farewell To U.S., At A Final Mass In Philadelphia


Pope Francis is in Philadelphia this evening celebrating the final mass of his visit to the United States.


POPE FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) Many of us are here participating at this celebration. And this is, in itself, something prophetic; a kind of miracle in today's world.

RATH: That's Pope Francis speaking through an interpreter on CNN. The pope is now wrapping up his visit to the U.S., but Francis started the day with a private encounter with victims of sex abuse, in which he said God weeps for the pain they have suffered. Earlier, I spoke with NPR's Sylvia Poggioli in Philadelphia, and she described the pope's meeting.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Well, he was very somber, very different from the boisterous pope we saw last - at the musical event last night. In unprepared remarks, Francis said God weeps for the sexual abuse of children that cannot be maintained in secret. And I commit to a careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected and that all responsible will be held accountable. This was the second time he's met sex abuse victims since he became pope. He said to the bishops, this disgrace keeps burdening me that the people who had the responsibility for caring for these tender ones raped them and caused them great pain.

Later, a Vatican statement said the pope had met five victims - three women and two men, not all of them abused by clergy. Some were victims of abuse in the family or by educators, and one was not Catholic. The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said this is part of the Catholic Church's larger perspective of ministry to all victims, even to those of other religions. But many victims' advocates were disappointed, saying that this approach risks minimizing the problem within the Catholic Church.

RATH: Later in his speech to bishops, Pope Francis addressed the question of marriage in its changing status, specifically. What was his message there?

POGGIOLI: Well, it was his first reference to same-sex marriage during this trip. He said precedented changes are taking place in contemporary society with their social, cultural and unfortunately juridical effects on family bonds. The word unfortunately was added to the prepared text. But, you know, speaking about the shifting values in contemporary society, he used a kind of a folksy analogy. He said people used to go to local neighborhood stores where maybe there wasn't much choice, but everything one needed could be found. Now, he went on, the world has become like a great supermarket. The culture has become more competitive, and it encourages young people not to bond, not to trust anyone, to postpone marriage. And the heart of his speech was to urge American bishops to redirect their energies away from lamenting the state of society and to do more to encourage young people to be brave and op for marriage and make a family. In the end, the message was very upbeat, very optimistic.

RATH: The pope then visited a prison. What was his message for the prisoners?

POGGIOLI: Well, he told - there were something like 60 men and 11 women prisoners there. He told them that they should not view their confinement as their exclusion from society. He told them this period of their life can have only one purpose - to help them get back on the right road. You know, the pope often visits prisons. He - and he's criticized the prison system that tends to only punish and humiliate prisoners. And he's often said that life prison terms are form of torture. He's called them hidden death sentences. Today, he told these inmates that the journey of life means getting dirty feet and that everyone needs to be cleansed, me in the first place, he said. He thanked them for the large wooden chair they made for him. And he gave them a thumbs up, then called it beautiful. He shook hands and hugged several who got up to greet him.

RATH: That's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli in Philadelphia. Sylvia, thank you.

POGGIOLI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.
Beginning in October 2015, Arun Rath assumed a new role as a shared correspondent for NPR and Boston-based public broadcaster WGBH News. He is based in the WGBH newsroom and his time is divided between filing national stories for NPR and local stories for WGBH News.
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