“Missionary of Mercy” is how I presented myself in Cuba, a land rich in natural beauty, culture and faith. God’s mercy is greater than any wound, any conflict, any ideology, and with this look of mercy I was able to embrace all the Cuban people, in the homeland and abroad, beyond any division. Symbol of this profound unity of the Cuban spirit is the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, who in fact one hundred years ago was proclaimed Patroness of Cuba. I went as a pilgrim to the Shrine of this Mother of Hope, Mother that guides on the path of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation.
I was able to share with the Cuban people the hope of the fulfillment of Saint John Paul II’s prophecy: that Cuba open itself to the world and the world open to Cuba. No more closure, no more exploitation of poverty, but freedom in dignity. This is the way that makes the heart vibrate of many Cuban young people: not a way of evasion, of easy earnings, but of responsibility, of service to one’s neighbor, of care of fragility. A way that draws strength from the Christian roots of that people, which has suffered so much -- a way in which I encouraged particularly the priests and all the consecrated, the students and the families. May the Holy Spirit, with the intercession of Mary Most Holy, make the seeds grow that we sowed.
From Cuba to the United States of America: it was an emblematic passage, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt. God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones that build walls! And walls collapse, always. And in the United States I fulfilled three stages: Washington, New York and Philadelphia.
At Washington I met the political authorities, ordinary people, Bishops, priests and consecrated, the poorest and the marginalized. I recalled that the greatest richness of that country and of its people is in the spiritual and ethical patrimony. And thus I wished to encourage that social building be carried forward in fidelity to its fundamental principles, namely that all men are created equal by God and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. These values, shared by all, find in the Gospel their complete fulfillment, as the canonization well evidenced of Father Junipero Serra, Franciscan, great evangelizer of California. Saint Junipero shows the way of joy: to go and share with others the love of Christ. This is the way of the Christian, but also of every man that has known love: not to keep it for himself but to share it with others. The United States of America was born and grew on this religious and moral basis, and on this basis it can continue to be a land of freedom and hospitality and cooperate towards a more just and fraternal world.
At New York I was able to visit the headquarters of the United Nations and to greet the personnel that works there. I had conversations with the Secretary General and the Presidents of the last General Assemblies and of the Security Council. Speaking to the Representatives of the Nations, in the wake of my Predecessors, I renewed the Catholic Church’s encouragement to that Institution and to its role in the promotion of development and peace, recalling in particular the necessity of agreed and active commitment to the care of Creation. I also confirmed the appeal to halt and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and against civilian populations.
We prayed for peace and fraternity at the Ground Zero Memorial, together with representatives of the religions, the relatives of so many who fell and the people of New York, so rich in cultural variety. And I celebrated the Eucharist in Madison Square Garden for peace and justice.
In both Washington and New York I was able to meet some charitable and educational realities, emblematic of the enormous service that Catholic communities – priests, men and women Religious, laity – offer in these fields.
The climax of the trip was the Meeting with Families at Philadelphia, where the horizon extended to the whole world through the “prism”, so to speak, of the family. The family, namely the fruitful bond between man and woman, is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a double challenge: fragmentation and massification, two extremes that coexist and sustain one another, and together they sustain the consumerist economic model. The family is the answer because it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and the communal dimension, and which at the same time can be the model of a sustainable management of the goods and resources of Creation. The family is the leading subject of an integral ecology, because it is the primary social subject, which contains within itself the two basic principles of human civilization on earth: the principle of communion and the principle of fecundity. Biblical humanism presents this icon to us: the human couple, united and fecund, placed by God in he garden of the world, to cultivate and protect it.
I wish to express fraternal and warm gratitude to Monsignor Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, for his commitment, his piety, his enthusiasm and his great love of the family in the organization of this event. Looking at it more closely, it was not an accident but providential that the message, in fact the testimony of the World Meeting of Families, took place at this time in the United States of America, namely, the country that in the last century reached the highest economic and technical development without denying its religious roots. Now these roots themselves ask to begin again from the family to rethink and change the model of development, for the good of the entire human family. Thank you.