Pope Francis made his first visit to America, visiting Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia for a synod on the family.

Here is the Pope’s travel itinerary and speaking schedule. The Council of Catholic Bishops also posted this interactive map showing his travels.

The pope trumped Donald Trump over the weekend, recording 235 minutes of coverage compared to 35 minutes for the current GOP frontrunner. With all the coverage and high profile trips to Washington and New York City, the main purpose of his trip to Philadelphia may have been overlooked.

He celebrated the largest mass of his visit there, and he spoke at the close of the World Meeting of Families. Here is an excerpt from the extemporaneous speech:

“Let’s go back. When man and his wife made a mistake, God did not abandon them. So great was His love, that He began to walk with humanity, with His people, until the right moment came, and He made the highest expression of love – His own Son. And where did He send his son – to a palace? To a city? No. He sent him to a family. God sent him amid a family. And He could do this, because it was a family that had a truly open heart. The doors of their heart opened.”

“Mary, she couldn’t believe it. How can this happen? When the angel explained it to her, she agreed. Joseph. He finds himself in a surprising situation that he doesn’t understand, and he accepts. He obeys. In Mary and Joseph, there is a family in which Jesus is born.”

Here are some quotes from Pope Francis’ prepared remarks, which he set aside:

“He is the God who from the very beginning of creation said: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We can add: it is not good for woman to be alone, it is not good for children, the elderly or the young to be alone. It is not good. That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24). The two are meant to be a home, a family.”

“Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows. Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity. An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God who is with us and never abandons us. This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes. But we know that that is not really what counts. We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God.”

Phillyvoice journalist Daniel Craig writes, “Also, despite the pontiff famously saying “Who am I to judge?” concerning gay priests, Francis has not broken from church doctrine concerning abortion or same-sex marriage.”

Indeed.

I encourage people to follow the links and read the Pope’s Philadephia speech (prepared remarks and his extemporaneous talk). He consistently affirmed the family as headed by a man and woman, as ordained by our Creator.

 

Dr. Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College and author of numerous highly acclaimed books such as Ronald Reagan: The Crusader, God and Ronald Reagan, and God and Hillary Clinton, has written a thoughtful article about Pope Francis and his visit. In it he describes some of the pope’s past pro-life and pro-traditional marriage writings and statements which are being overlooked by the press as they focus on more popular liberal topics like government spending and regulations to combat climate change, accommodation for illegal immigration and wealth redistribution.

The pope’s sharp language affirming marriage between one man and one woman and the evils of gender identity politics may be surprising. I commend Cherry-Picking Pope Francis by Dr. Paul Kengor to your reading.

Dr. Kengor’s article and Republican Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz’ article detail what conservatives like about Pope Francis: religious liberty and solid social conservatism regarding pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. Pope Francis has compassion for individual LGBT people, while opposing their agenda and that of their allies to redefine marriage and family.

I also like much of what the pope has to say in Laudate Si about caring for the poor and giving them the opportunity to earn a living wage, but think that the best way to accomplish that is economic growth, not government redistribution. Here is an evangelical summary of this encyclical for those without time to read the entire 80 pages.

Perhaps Francis’ experience with crony capitalism in Argentina has flavored his views. He seems to fail to see the evils of communism like Pope John Paul II, who grew up in Poland. Socialism does not work as well as free enterprise for creating the most wealth for the most people.

Dr. Kengor’s book about the fall of communism gave most of the credit to Ronald Reagan. Partnerships with like-minded world leaders included Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.

 

Finally, aboard the papal plane back to Italy, Pope Francis said that government officials should not have to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies if it violates their conscience, referring to the recent case regarding Kim Davis in Kentucky. Conscience objections are a basic human right, he said.

Pope Francis, as the popular leader of the Roman Catholic Church, provokes thought on a variety of issues. Many people of all faith traditions are praying for him. I join my Catholic friends in praying that God would bless his ministry to the church and keep him faithful in leading it.