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NUEVA YORK (EFE) – El Papa Francisco llegó hoy a Nueva York para iniciar su primera visita como pontífice a la ciudad, donde tendrá una cargada agenda que incluirá actos multitudinarios y un discurso ante los líderes mundiales en las Naciones Unidas.

El avión de Francisco aterrizó poco después de las 5 pm hora local en el aeropuerto John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK), procedente de Washington, y desde allí tiene previsto tomar un helicóptero para trasladarse rápidamente a Manhattan.

El pontífice encabezará esta misma tarde un servicio religioso en la remozada catedral de San Patricio, en la Quinta avenida, donde ya desde hace horas se congregan multitudes para verlo de cerca.

El Papa será recibido en las escalinatas del templo por el arzobispo de Nueva York, el cardenal Timothy Dolan, y el rector de la catedral, monseñor Robert Ritchie, además de autoridades estatales y municipales.

Mañana viernes, Francisco estará en la sede de las Naciones Unidas, donde ofrecerá un discurso ante unos 150 jefes de Estado y de Gobierno, reunidos para aprobar la nueva agenda global de desarrollo.

A continuación, visitará el memorial del 11S y una escuela del barrio latino de Harlem, antes de darse un baño de masas con una procesión por Central Park a la que asistirán 80.000 personas que lograron entradas en un sorteo organizado por las autoridades locales.

Su último acto en la Gran Manzana será una misa con unos 20.000 fieles en el Madison Square Garden, antes de continuar viaje el sábado hacia Filadelfia.

Nueva York ha puesto en marcha un inmenso dispositivo de seguridad para la visita del papa, durante la que se cerrarán al tráfico numerosas zonas del centro de Manhattan.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Pope Francis, who on Thursday urged Congress and the nation to abolish the death penalty, fight global warming and embrace immigrants, arrived to a warm welcome on his first visit to New York, where he planned sunset evening prayers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

On Friday, Francis’ schedule includes addressing world leaders at the United Nations, participating in an interfaith service at the Sept. 11 memorial museum at ground zero, visiting a school and taking a processional drive through Central Park. He also will celebrate Mass at the Madison Square Garden arena.

In Washington earlier Thursday, the pope had waded into bitter disputes while speaking to Congress, entreating the nation to share its immense wealth with those less fortunate. Lawmakers gave rousing ovations to the leader of the world’s Catholics despite obvious disagreements over some of his pleas.

After he addressed Congress, the first pontiff ever to do so, he underscored his message by traveling directly to a downtown Washington church, where he mingled with needy and homeless people, blessed their noontime meal and walked among them while they ate.

Soon after, he headed by plane to New York, second stop on his three-city first visit to the U.S. He addresses the U.N. on Friday and winds up his visit this weekend in Philadelphia.

At the Capitol, the remarkable sight of the pope speaking in the House chamber seemed to delight lawmakers of all persuasions, though he offered an agenda more to Democrats’ liking. Besides his focus on climate change and immigration, he denounced arms sales and seemed to allude approvingly to the Iran nuclear deal and recent Obama administration actions to open relations with Cuba, done with his urging.

Republicans, too, heard something to like in his references to the sanctity of life and family relations, reminders that even the more open Catholic Church Francis presides over still condemns abortion and gay marriage.

For all the spectacle, it seemed unlikely the pope’s visit would break congressional inertia on the issues dear to him, with no action in sight from the GOP majority on global warming or immigration.

But Francis, in his historic speech, seemed determined to remind the United States of its foundations as a country made up of foreigners, addressing the chamber and the American people beyond in personal terms as a son of immigrants to “this great continent.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

After the address, Francis appeared high on a Capitol balcony and briefly addressed a cheering crowd of thousands below on the lawn and the Mall beyond who had watched his speech on giant TV screens.

“Buenos dias,” he called out in the language of his native Argentina and millions of U.S. immigrants, legal and not.

The crowd thundered its response.

Francis asked the crowd to pray for him, as he always does. But speaking in Spanish, he added a line to acknowledge that not everyone there was a believer.

“If among you there are some who don’t believe or who cannot pray, I ask that you send good wishes my way,” he said, to tumultuous applause.

“God bless America!” he concluded, as he had in the House chamber.

After leaving the Capitol, the pope brought encouragement to a much smaller group: a gathering of homeless and needy people at St. Patrick’s Church and Catholic Charities in Washington. He decried a lack of housing for the poor and declared there is “no justification whatsoever” for homelessness.

New York was next in his jam-packed tour, which began last weekend in Cuba and included a White House ceremony and Washington parade in his popemobile on Wednesday and wraps up in Philadelphia this weekend. Late Thursday, he was to preside over a vespers service at the recently spruced up St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

On Friday, at the United Nations, he is sure to make many of the points emphasized in Washington – a need for openness to immigrants and for the world to share its riches with the needy.

At the Capitol in Washington, the packed House chamber included Supreme Court justices, Cabinet officials and lawmakers of both major political parties, some of whom bowed their heads in deference as Francis walked down the center aisle to approach the dais where presidents deliver their State of the Union speeches.

“Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See,” bellowed the sergeant at arms.

Behind the pope sat Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, the first and second in line to the presidency, both Catholics.

Francis, in deliberate and accented English, noted that many lawmakers descended from immigrants and the U.S. was founded by foreigners “who came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom.”

“Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated,” he said. “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.”

His appeal comes amid the worst refugee crisis since World War II: Europe has been overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war in Syria and Iraq, and there are widespread conflicts and poverty in Africa. In the U.S., tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied minors from Central America have surged across the southern U.S. border as violence has flared at home.

For now, Congress has deadlocked on immigration legislation, and the chances for progress have only grown more remote amid the hardline rhetoric of the U.S. presidential campaign. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has painted Mexican immigrants as criminals and has said he would build a wall along the border and force Mexico to pay for it.

Francis has called for a more welcoming attitude toward migrants across the board and has backed that up with a modest welcome of his own: The Vatican recently took in two refugee families to live in the tiny, walled city-state, which has committed to care for them while they await their asylum applications. Francis met with the first family to arrive, a Syrian family of four, en route to the airport for his current trip.

On another contentious subject, he advocated abolition of the death penalty in the U.S., something that enjoys support from a number of lawmakers of both parties at the federal level. He spoke out against fundamentalism of all kinds while urging care in combating it.

In calling for action on the climate and to combat poverty, he took care to insist he was not anti-business, as some conservatives have suggested. He quoted a Catholic teaching document that calls business “a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world.”

At the Capitol, his mention of climate change drew standing cheers from Democrats while Republicans stood to applaud the reference to opposing abortion. Republicans in particular also loudly applauded as Francis asserted the importance of family life and bemoaned that “fundamental relationships are being called into question as is the very basis of marriage and the family.” The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage, recently legalized by the Supreme Court.

Francis also criticized the arms trade, which he said was fueled by the pursuit of “money that is drenched in blood.”

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USA – WASHINGTON – 24.09.2015

Visita al centro caritativo y encuentro con los sintecho

Parroquia de San Patricio

Queridos amigos:

La primera palabra que quiero decirles es gracias. Gracias por recibirme y por el esfuerzo que han hecho para que este encuentro pueda realizarse.

Aquí recuerdo a una persona que quiero, que es y ha sido muy importante a lo largo de mi vida. Ha sido sostén y fuente de inspiración. Es a quien recurro cuando estoy medio «apretado». Ustedes me recuerdan a san José. Sus rostros me hablan del suyo.

En la vida de José hubo situaciones difíciles de enfrentar. Una de ellas fue cuando María estaba por dar a luz, por tener a Jesús. Dice la Biblia: «Estaban en Belén, le llegó a María el tiempo de dar a luz. Y allí nació su hijo primogénito, y lo envolvió en pañales y lo acostó en el establo, porque no había alojamiento para ellos» (Lc 2,6-7). La Biblia es muy clara: «No había alojamiento para ellos». Me imagino a José, con su esposa a punto de tener a su hijo, sin un techo, sin casa, sin alojamiento. El Hijo de Dios entró en este mundo como uno que no tiene casa. El hijo de Dios entró como un homeless. El Hijo de Dios supo lo que es comenzar la vida sin un techo. Imaginemos las preguntas de José en ese momento: ¿Cómo el Hijo de Dios no tiene un techo para vivir? ¿Por qué estamos sin hogar, por qué estamos sin un techo? Son preguntas que muchos de ustedes pueden hacerse a diario. Y se las hacen. Al igual que José se cuestionan: ¿Por qué estamos sin un techo, sin un hogar? A los que tenemos techo y hogar son preguntas que nos hará bien hacernos también: ¿Por qué estos hermanos nuestros están sin hogar, por qué estos hermanos nuestros no tienen un techo?

Las preguntas de José siguen presentes hoy, acompañando a todos los que a lo largo de la historia han vivido y están sin un hogar.

José era un hombre que se hizo preguntas pero, sobre todo, era un hombre de fe. Fue la fe la que le permitió a José poder encontrar luz en ese momento que parecía todo a oscuras; fue la fe la que lo sostuvo en las dificultades de su vida. Por la fe, José supo salir adelante cuando todo parecía detenerse.

Ante situaciones injustas, dolorosas, la fe nos aporta esa luz que disipa la oscuridad. Al igual que a José, la fe nos abre a la presencia silenciosa de Dios en toda vida, en toda persona, en toda situación. Él está presente en cada uno de ustedes, en cada uno de nosotros.

Quiero ser muy claro. No hay ningún tipo de justificación social, moral o del tipo que sea para aceptar la falta de alojamiento. Son situaciones injustas, pero sabemos que Dios está sufriéndolas con nosotros, está viviéndolas a nuestro lado. No nos deja solos.

Sabemos que Jesús no solo ha querido solidarizarse con cada persona, no solo quiso que nadie sienta o viva la falta de su compañía, de su auxilio, de su amor. Él mismo se ha identificado con todos aquellos que sufren, que lloran, que padecen alguna injusticia. Él nos lo dice claramente: «Tuve hambre, y me dieron de comer; tuve sed, y me dieron de beber; anduve como forastero y me dieron alojamiento» (Mt 25,35).

Es la fe la que nos hace saber que Dios está con ustedes, Dios está en medio nuestro y su presencia nos moviliza a la caridad. Esa caridad que nace de la llamada de un Dios que sigue golpeando nuestra puerta, la puerta de todos para invitarnos al amor, a la compasión, a la entrega de unos por otros.

Jesús sigue golpeando nuestras puertas, nuestra vida. No lo hace mágicamente, no lo hace con artilugios, con carteles luminosos o fuegos artificiales. Jesús sigue golpeando nuestra puerta en el rostro del hermano, en el rostro del vecino, en el rostro del que está a nuestro lado.

Queridos amigos, uno de los modos más eficaces de ayuda que tenemos lo encontramos en la oración. La oración nos une, nos hermana, nos abre el corazón y nos recuerda una verdad hermosa que a veces olvidamos. En la oración, todos aprendemos a decir Padre, papá, y en ella nos encontramos como hermanos. En la oración, no hay ricos y pobres, hay hijos y hermanos. En la oración no hay personas de primera o de segunda, hay fraternidad.

Es en la oración donde nuestro corazón encuentra la fuerza para no volverse insensible, frío ante las situaciones de injusticia. En la oración, Dios nos sigue llamando y levantando a la caridad.

Qué bien nos hace rezar juntos, qué bien nos hace encontrarnos en ese espacio donde nos miramos como hermanos y nos reconocemos los unos necesitados del apoyo de los otros. Hoy quiero rezar con ustedes, quiero unirme a ustedes porque necesito su apoyo, su cercanía. Quiero invitarlos a rezar juntos, los unos por los otros, los unos con los otros. Así podremos continuar con este sostén que nos ayuda a vivir la alegría de saber que Jesús siempre está en medio nuestro. Que Jesús nos ayude a solucionar las injusticias que Él conoció primero. La de no tener casa ¿Se animan a rezar juntos?

Yo empiezo en castellano y ustedes siguen en inglés

Padre nuestro que estás en el cielo…

Antes de irme, me gustaría darles la bendición de Dios:

Que el Señor los bendiga y los proteja;

que el Señor los mire con agrado y les muestre su bondad;

que el Señor los mire con amor y les conceda su paz (Nm 6, 24-26).      

Y no se olviden de rezar por mí.

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USA – Washington – 24.09.2015

Congress of the United States of America

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Original text Mr. Vice-President, Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members of Congress, Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self- sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

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 continue 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 which 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, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. 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 which 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).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which 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.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

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