October 12, 2015

Hours before celebrating a huge downtown Mass with nearly a million people in Philadelphia, Pope Francis set aside some time to be with his brothers.

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, one of the bishops taking part in the Vatican sponsored World Meeting of Families Congress, said Pope Francis' meeting with the bishops, on the final day of his visit to the United States, felt very much like being with a brother among brothers.

"Just the way he walks into the room, the way he greets the bishops - especially when he goes over to bishops he knows personally - clearly, he is very, very happy to be with his brother bishops," said Smith. "And we all appreciate the opportunity to hear from him words of encouragement, and that's what it was this morning."

Pope Francis encouraged the bishops to be close to families as he has tried to be close to families.

He understands the difficulties and the complexities of family life today and he wants to encourage husband and wife, moms and dads and the children, to understand that God, who when he became incarnate in Jesus entered history by becoming a member of a family, is very much at the centre of their lives, and continues to want to be in families, said Smith.

"All through the congress, the pope has just been giving people these incredible words of encouragement and he invited us to do the same; to continue to be close to our families because they struggle a lot today for a whole host of reasons.

To the degree that family is weakened so too is society, so too is the common good, and so it's really necessary to draw close to our people," said Smith.

The archbishop described the papal tour as a "series of contrasts" - starting at the halls of political power, but combined with visits to centres associated with the forgotten people such as a school in Harlem, lunch with ths homeless, and visits in prisons.

"I think the most important thing that he's done is the way that he has set up his itinerary," said Smith.

"In all of this contrasting of the itinerary events, he's making very clear to people with civic responsibilities - in fact he's making very clear to all citizens who share responsibilities for the common good - that we cannot grow as a society, we cannot deepen in our life together, we cannot promote the common good, if we forget the most vulnerable and weakest among us.

"And the pope highlighted that very beautifully."


"He spoke to the political elite and highlighted for them their common responsibility to work together for the common good and then he showed how to do it. He left them and he went to the needy and to the homeless.

As Pope Francis' popularity extends even to some who have left the Church and are now choosing to return, the pope, in his personification of God's tenderness, is showing members of the Church how they should be welcoming people back.

Smith said, "He has called the Church to a revolution of tenderness. So he's living that out and he's showing it in his person. But what he's doing in his person and in his words is really making very visible, the heart of the Gospel."


"Everything that the Church teaches comes together in this tenderness toward the hurting, the alienated, to those that are in need of forgiveness and so on and to reach out with that tender touch of God."

In preparing the Church for the Year of Mercy, the pope has said that every Christian community needs to be experienced as an "oasis of mercy.

"As we all reach out to one another and invite people to rediscover their relationship with the Lord within the community of his disciples, we need to be conscious of people come back from a whole host of different experiences, hurts and pains and guilt and shame," said Smith.

"And when they come to our parishes, will they find there an oasis of mercy? Will they find the avenues whereby their hurts can be heard, where their hurts can be touched and where their hurts can be healed? This is how I'm seeing the pope speaking to the Church right now."