Pope Francis reviewed his recent trip to Cuba and the United States during his General Audience on Wednesday, calling the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia the “culmination” of his apostolic visit. “I wish to convey my fraternal and warm thanks to Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, for his commitment, his piety, his enthusiasm, and his great love for the family in the organization of this event,” the Pope said Sept. 30 in St. Peter's Square. “At closer inspection, it is no accident, but rather providential that the message, indeed, 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.” He noted that his trip to Cuba and the United States was occassioned by the World Meeting of Families, and was expanded from there to include the United Nations and Cuba. He expressed his thanks to Cuban president Raul Castro, United States president Barack Obama, and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon for their welcome. The Pope began with his time in Cuba, which he called “rich in natural beauty, culture, and faith,” where he went 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.” He called Cuba's patroness, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the symbol of this unity, and said she “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,” he said. “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.” Pope Francis continued: “From Cuba to the United States of America: an emblematic step, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt. God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones who build walls! But walls fall down, always!” He said the that United States' greatest wealth is in its “spiritual and ethical patrimony.” “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, and the pursuit of happiness. These values, shared by all, find their fulfilment in the Gospel, as was clearly shown by the canonisation of Fr. Junipero Serra, a Franciscan, 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.” The Pope then discussed his visit to the United Nations, where “I renewed the Catholic Church's commitment to the institution and to its role in promoting development and peace, especially with regard to the need for joint and active commitment to care for creation.” He also highlighted his appeal “to stop and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and against civilian populations.” “The culmination 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. 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 said the family is “the answer” because “it is the cell of a society which balances the personal and community dimensions, and is 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.” Following his address, Pope Francis asked the pilgrims to pray for the upcoming Synod on the Family, “and to be witnesses of God’s presence in the world through your family life.”
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