Vatican City, 30 September 2015 (VIS) – The catechesis of this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square was dedicated to the Holy Father's recent apostolic trip in Cuba and the United States, which originated with his wish to participate in the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on 28 September. The visit was extended to include a visit to the United States, to the headquarters of the United Nations, and to Cuba, which was the first stage of his itinerary. The Pope took the opportunity to once again express his gratitude to the president of Cuba Raul Castro, the president of the United States Barack Obama, and the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, for the welcome they reserved to him, and to the bishops and collaborators in the organisation of the trip for their work.
The Pope recounted that he presented himself in Cuba, “a land rich in natural beauty, culture and faith”, as a “Missionary of Mercy”. “God's mercy is greater than any affliction, any conflict, any ideology; and with this gaze of mercy I was able to embrace the entire Cuban population, at home and abroad, looking beyond any division. The symbol of this deep unity is Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, … Patroness of Cuba, … Mother of Hope … who guides us on the path of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation. … I was able to share with the Cuban people the hope of fulfilling the prophecy of St. John Paul II: that Cuba will open up to the world, and the world will open up to Cuba. No more closure, no more exploitation of the poor, but instead freedom and dignity. It is the path that draws strength from the Christian roots of the people, who have suffered greatly”.
After Cuba, the Pope proceeded the United States. “A symbolic step, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt”, he commented, adding that “God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones who build walls. But walls always fall down”.
He then spoke about the three phases of his trip to the United States: Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia. In Washington D.C. he met not only with the political authorities, but also the clergy, the poor and the marginalised. He remarked that the greatest wealth of the country and her people is her “spiritual and ethical heritage. And so, I wanted to encourage to continuation of social construction faithful to the United States' fundamental principle, that all men are created by God, equal and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, liberty an the pursuit of happiness. These values, that may be shared by all, find their fulfilment in the Gospel, as was clearly shown by the canonisation of the Franciscan Fr. Junipero Serra, the great evangeliser of California. St. Junipero shows us the way to joy: going forth and sharing Christ's love with others. This is the way of Christians, but also of any person who has known love: not to keep it to oneself but to share it with others. The United States of America have grown on this religious and moral base, and on this base they can continue to be a land of freedom, welcome and cooperation for a more just and fraternal world”.
Turning to the second phase of the trip, in New York, the Pope recalled his address to the representatives of nations at the General Assembly of the United Nations, in which he renewed the Catholic Church's commitment to support the institution and “its role in the promotion of development and peace, especially with regard to the need for joint and active commitment to care for creation”, and highlighted his appeal “to stop and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and against civil populations”. The Holy Father recounted that he had prayed at Ground Zero for peace and fraternity, accompanied by representatives of various religions and families of victims of the 11 September attacks, and celebrated Mass for peace and justice in Madison Square Garden.
“In both Washington D.C. and New York I was able to meet various charitable and educational bodies, emblematic of the enormous service that the Catholic community – priests, man and women religious, and laypeople – offer in these fields”.
However, the climax of the trip was the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, “where the horizon extends to all the world through the 'prism' of the family”. He continued, “the family is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a dual challenge: fragmentation and solidification, two extremes which co-exist, support each other and together support the consumerist economic model. The family is the answer as it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and community dimensions, and at the same time the model for a sustainable management of the goods and resources of creation. The family is the protagonist of an integral ecology, as it is the primary social subject which contains within itself the two basic principals of human civilisation on earth: the principles of communion and fruitfulness. Biblical humanism presents us with this icon: the human couple, united and fruitful, placed by God in the garden of the world to cultivate it and protect it”.
The Holy Father concluded by greeting the archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, noting his great love for the family made manifest in the organisation of the event. “It is not by chance, but rather providential that … the witness of the World Meeting of Families came at this moment from the United States of America – that is, the country that during the last century reached the highest level of economic and technological development without renouncing its religious roots. Now these same roots are asking to be replanted in the family, to rethink and change the model of development, for the good of the entire human family”.