Later Sunday evening, Vice President Biden led the farewell delegation for Pope Francis, as his plane departed the USA for the return flight to Vatican City.
Pope Francis has a couple of times predicted that his pontificate, which began in 2013, might not last until 2018, but even if he serves until then, advancing age may force him to significantly curtail his travels by then.
After saying Mass in Madison Square Garden on Friday night for 20,000 people, Pope Francis was ready for his final leg of his US tour and headed to Philadelphia on Saturday morning.
“Well I think he is certainly the pope of the people”, said Ed Mackel of Philadelphia.
The editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, Michael Kelly, told BBC Radio Ulster that he expected Pope Francis to attend the Dublin conference in three year’s time.
Francis also told journalists that while he is willing to forgive clergy who have abused children and young people, he understands why there are a few who find it hard.
“God weeps for sexual abuse of children”, the 78-year-old pontiff told bishops at a seminary. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, had a similar meeting when he visited the U.S.in 2008.
“But those difficulties are overcome with love“, he added-words of wisdom woven with a common touch that has endeared him to an audience beyond the Catholic church.
Pope Francis’ history-making trip to the United States is still being talked about days after his departure. He said we must be grateful for each one of them and their families for “their huge value in shining the light of Christ over the evil of the abuse of minors”.
Christ, he said, encourages everyone to remember the little things as they are a sign of life and “active presence in the world“. I understand her, and God who is better still than me understands her.
Pope Francis, who has emphasised humility and service over pomp and circumstance since being elected pope two years ago, also travelled to Philadelphia’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, where inmates made the hand-carved wooden chair he will use during the day’s closing Mass.
“Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil… will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation”, the pope said.