Love Is Our Mission



Columbia staff

Pope Francis waves from the Speakers Balcony

Pope Francis waves from the Speakers Balcony at the U.S. Capitol Sept. 24. (CNS/Doug Mills, pool)

From Sept. 22-27, Pope Francis visited the United States for the first time, making numerous stops in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. In the preceding days, the pope visited Cuba, where he urged citizens there to strive for justice, peace and freedom by living the “revolution of tenderness” inspired by Our Lady of Charity. The U.S. visit, organized under the theme “Love Is Our Mission,” culminated in Philadelphia, where thousands were gathered for the Eighth World Meeting of Families.

Knights of Columbus and their families participated in the major events, and the Order provided both financial and volunteer support for the papal visit and World Meeting of Families. This included printing 300,000 copies of the booklet used for the closing Mass Sept. 27.

Pope Francis personally greeted Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson in Washington and New York, and the Order was a visible presence at many of the events, including Fourth Degree honor guards, as well as Knights serving as ushers during liturgies while wearing K of C baldrics.

On Sept. 23, the pope canonized Junípero Serra, the Franciscan friar and missionary known as the Apostle of California, during the first canonization Mass ever to take place in the United States. The following day, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to visit the U.S. Capitol and address a joint meeting of Congress, as he urged all Americans to remain faithful to the nation’s founding principles.

He later addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in the footsteps of his predecessors Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He also visited Ground Zero, as did Benedict XVI during his 2008 apostolic journey, which was the last time a pope visited the United States.

In Philadelphia, Pope Francis gave a historic address at Independence Hall, where both the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence were adopted. Speaking from the lectern used by Abraham Lincoln during the Gettysburg Address, the Holy Father called the location the “birthplace of the United States of America” and reflected on the fundamental right of religious freedom.

The primary reason for the pope’s apostolic journey was the World Meeting of Families, which began Sept. 22 in Philadelphia. The World Meeting concluded with welcoming Pope Francis to a large Festival of Families Sept. 26 and the pope celebrating Mass for more than 800,000 participants the following day.

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

‘Let us remember the Golden Rule.’

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continues to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices that can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). …

We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way that is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). …

The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick that time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

— Address to the United States Congress, Capitol Building, Washington, D.C., Sept. 24

Pope Francis addresses the General Assembly of the UN

Pope Francis addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Our common home and the sacredness of human life

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “Man is not only a freedom that he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Bundestag, Sept. 22, 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). … Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136). …

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one that accepts transcendence, self-transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (Address to the United Nations, Oct. 4, 1965).

— Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, New York City, Sept. 25.

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