Pope Francis heads home after successful visit

Posted at 11:15 PM, Sep 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-28 02:15:57-04

Pope Francis is headed home, leaving the United States after a five-day trip with "a heart full of gratitude and hope."

He lands in Rome early Monday.

The Pope packed a lot of hugs, handshakes, blessings and political admonitions into six days that took him to the halls of Washington power, the U.N. General Assembly and drew throngs of admirers to hear him celebrate Mass. 


He started with a greeting perhaps unprecedented for a foreign dignitary when he arrived from Cuba. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their families all went to meet him on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews outside Washington.

Then Francis became the first Pope to address Congress.

"Legislative activity is always based on care for the people," he told lawmakers in a speech that brought House Speaker John Boehner to tears. In the wake of his meeting with Francis, Boehner, who had talked of laying down the speaker's gavel in coming months, quit his job posthaste.

New York

In New York, Pope Francis stopped by the 9/11 memorial and admonished the world to never forget those who suffered and died there, and at the U.N. General Assembly, he set a moral tone that put people and the planet over money.

Think of the poor, he told the world's leaders and diplomats. They have "sacred rights" to labor, land and lodging, he said. And stop harming the Earth. In an opinion piece, U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon pleaded with world leaders to listen to Francis on climate change.

And the love of money?

"In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged," Francis said.

And he accused some powerful nations of abusing the United Nations to advance their own power agendas.


In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, Francis stood in front of Independence Hall and praised America's tradition of religious freedom and immigration. But he warned that injustice can tear a society down.

Wherever Francis goes, a crowd is sure to gather. In the United States he filled New York City's Madison Square Garden, and in Philadelphia the throngs poured into the city's main boulevard, Benjamin Franklin Boulevard. But he took the time to pass out hugs and touch faces with tears streaming down them.

And in his Philadelphia Mass he stressed the importance of kind "little gestures" that go a long way.

"They get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different," Francis said. "They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children and siblings."

He told the crowd to show affection and compassion for fellow human beings.

Sex abuse

And somewhere in between, the Pope addressed the uncomfortable subject that has hung over the Catholic Church for years -- sex abuse by clergy.

Francis met with five victims.

Afterward he said that "God weeps" when a child is sexually abused.

At around 8:00 p.m., he climbed up the stairs to the papal plane and took off.