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Why Philadelphia Loves The Pope


The streets of Philadelphia are lined with people hoping to get a glimpse of Pope Francis. The pope is finishing his U.S. tour this weekend. At this hour, the pope is addressing the crowds gathered at Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Festival of Families.


POPE FRANCIS: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.


FRANCIS: Peace be with you.


RATH: Earlier today, the pope celebrated mass at a cathedral and spoke at Independence Hall in downtown Philadelphia.


FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

RATH: Speaking through an interpreter on CNN, he directly addressed immigrants living in the U.S.


FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) Do not feel discouraged by all the challenges and hardships you might face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this new nation of yours.


RATH: During this morning's homily, one of the main points was the role of women in the Catholic Church. NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Pope Francis pointed to Saint Katharine Drexel; she grew up in Pennsylvania the daughter of a wealthy family. But instead of enjoying her family's money, she chose to become a nun and dedicated her life to helping less fortunate people. Speaking in Spanish, Pope Francis then called on the Catholic Church to place a greater value on women.


FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

BRADY: He said, quote, "In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contributions which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make to the life of our communities," unquote. This comment doesn't address calls for the church to ordain women. Polls show most American Catholics support that. But Francis's effort to highlight what women are doing now in the church was a welcome message for some in the pews.

KATE HOPKINS: I just - I can't believe I'm here. I wish all my children were here but we didn't have enough tickets.

BRADY: Kate Hopkins says her brother is a priest. That's how she got the few tickets she was able to. Hopkins says she was pleased the pope mentioned Saint Katharine Drexel as an example for everyone.

HOPKINS: If we can follow her role model, that would be wonderful, you know. And I think he's trying to get all women to kind of follow her, and that would be great for the church if we could do that.

BRADY: Much of the rest of Pope Francis's homily was about what each individual could do to contribute to the church's mission. Overall, the mass was formal and tightly scheduled. But then at the end, Francis leaned in and emphasized one of his signature requests.


FRANCIS: God bless you, and I ask you to pray for me.

BRADY: One of the most touching moments came as the Pope was leaving. There were children with severe disabilities near the front pews. Thirteen-year-old Matt Barbera says this was the most memorable part of the event.

MATT BARBERA: So when he went up to kiss the children, a lot of people started crying because, you know, he just came in and gave time and blessed the children that couldn't really do anything, they had disabilities, so I thought that was great.

BRADY: Tomorrow, Pope Francis plans to visit a local prison, where he'll meet inmates and their families. Then in the evening, there'll be a large, open-air mass in downtown before the pontiff heads back to Rome. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues, climate change and the mid-Atlantic region. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.