On the eve of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, the pope made a rare visit to America’s largest city, calling for an end to religious “culture wars” and reaffirming the Church’s “commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ.”
The pope’s visit, which has been widely anticipated, came as the country struggles with a surge in anti-Catholic sentiment and religious intolerance.
The pontiff spoke from the papal balcony on Thursday, a day after a mob attacked a group of Catholic priests in New York City, injuring four.
In a speech delivered in a Vatican office, Francis praised the Catholic Church’s efforts to overcome “cultural and political differences,” but he expressed hope that “the challenges of our times and the challenges of the present, such as the conflict between faith and politics, can be overcome and that the future will look more peaceful.”
The Pope, who has made the subject of his encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” a central theme of his pontificate, said that while he did not agree with everything he saw and heard during his visit to Philadelphia, he saw “true freedom and true peace.”
“The world has changed, the Church and the world have become more pluralistic and more diverse,” he said.
“And that is not the case with the Church, it is the case of all of us, with the whole of humanity.”
Francis also touched on his decision to travel to the U.S., saying he was not “the pope of the past, the bishop of the future,” but the “bishop of the now.”
He said he “cannot say with confidence” whether he will return to the Vatican, but added: “I hope so.”
The pontiffs words, coupled with his statement on the violent attack, were likely to fuel fears of religious conflict and violence, particularly in the U