By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
PHILADELPHIA, PA (ANS – September 27, 2015) — Pope Francis has celebrated a large open-air Mass in Philadelphia, ending his six-day visit to the US.
According to the BBC, he appealed for unity and family love, as thousands of people gathered at the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Earlier, the pontiff prayed with a group of victims of child sexual abuse, saying “God weeps” for their suffering.
“Clergy and bishops abusing children would be held accountable, he said. The Roman Catholic Church in the US has been embroiled in child sex scandals,” the BBC went on to say.
“US dioceses have made huge compensation payouts to victims. However, many abuse survivors are angry at how the Vatican has dealt with allegations.”
‘Pray for me’
During Sunday’s homily in Spanish, the 78-year-old Argentine pontiff called the crowd to be open to “miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world.”
He added, “The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”
And finishing mass, the Pope said: “I ask you to pray for me. Don’t forget.”
The BBC said that earlier on Sunday, he met the five victims, all now adults who had suffered sexual abuse as children, during a seminary in Pennsylvania.
The group – three women and two men – had been abused by clergy, family members or teachers, papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
He said the Pope was “overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm.”
Francis told the victims who were abused by a member of the clergy that he was “deeply sorry” for the times when the abuse was reported, but victims or their families “were not heard or believed,” the statement said.
It added that the Pope “renewed his commitment” to ensure that victims are treated with justice, the guilty are punished, and to effective prevention in the Church and in society, the statement said.
But survivors’ advocacy groups expressed some skepticism at whether the Pope’s words would lead to any change.
John Salveson, President of the Pennsylvania-based Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, said: “The truth is that the survivor community has been asking the Church to take several simple steps to protect children and hold perpetrators and enablers accountable for years, but the Church has refused to take these actions.
“If Pope Francis wishes to take effective action to back up his words he could take these steps immediately.”
In June the Pope approved the creation of a tribunal to hear cases of bishops accused of covering up child abuse by paedophile priests.
Last year, the UN strongly criticized the Church for failing to stamp out abuse and for allowing cover-ups.
But despite all of this, millions of Americans were blessed by this visit by one of the most unusual Pope’s many have seen in their lifetime.
Photo captions: 1) A serious Pope during the final mass of his visit to the US. 2) Mass exodus on the Parkway in Philadelphia. (Photo | Jeff Fusco). 3) The Pope greets a woman in Philadelphia. 4) Dan Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books.
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