Philadelphia welcomes Pope Francis on last stop of U.S. journey

popePope Francis arrived in Philadelphia today, holding a mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in which he focused on the role lay Catholics must play in the future of the church. About 2,400 worshipers filled the basilica. In his sermon he also denounced the “selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity,” misuse of natural resources, and exclusion of the disadvantaged and weak.

This afternoon the Pope will speak on immigration and religious freedom in front of Independence Hall. Sunday he will hold a second Mass outside the Philadelphia Art Museum which is expected to attract 1.5 million people.

In his whirlwind tour of the City of Brotherly Love, Pope Francis will address the international Catholic World Meeting of Families, a conference that will include over 18,000 people from around the world. This is the first time the Vatican-sponsored conference, which takes place every three years, will be held in the U.S..

Much of the city, which has been preparing for the visit for months, has been shut down to cars due to the pope’s visit, and boat traffic was banned on rivers near key sites. City government offices, courts and schools have been shut down periodically since Wednesday. High security includes 2,000 National Guardsmen, over 160 bomb-detecting dogs and 265 bomb technicians.

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, admitted Friday night to reporters that Pope Francis is tired from his busy U.S. visit. The pontiff has been having physical therapy for a problem with his leg, but cannot undergo his treatments during trips. He has been having some difficulty negotiating steps.

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