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Pope Francis in New York City: ‘God Is Living in Our Cities’

During a Mass celebrated in English, Spanish, and Latin, Pope Francis told some 20,000 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, “God is living in our cities.”

“We are in Madison Square Garden, a place synonymous with this city,” the animated Pope said in Spanish during his homily Friday evening. “In this place, which represents both the variety and the common interests of so many different people, we have listened to the words: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’ (Is 9:1).”

Four times the assembly broke into applause as Pope Francis delivered his homily, which, as is often his custom, focused on those who are marginalized in society. Specifically, he observed those who are “foreigners” may be considered to “have no ‘right’ to be there.”

The Pope continued:

Living in a big city is not always easy. A multicultural context presents many complex challenges. Yet big cities are a reminder of the hidden riches present in our world: in the diversity of its cultures, traditions and historical experiences. In the variety of its languages, costumes and cuisine. Big cities bring together all the different ways which we human beings have discovered to express the meaning of life, wherever we may be.

But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change,” so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes and especially in our hearts.

The Pope said that “even in the midst of smog, the presence of God” is experienced “as he continues to walk the streets of our city.”

The people of God, Pope Francis said, are called to “contemplate” the light which is Jesus, “a light to the nations, as the elderly Simeon joyfully expressed it.”

Prior to vesting for Mass, the Pope circled the arena in a golf cart, greeting and blessing the assembly.

With Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, at his side, Pope Francis carried the staff that was also used by Pope Paul VI during his 1965 visit to New York City.

Pope Francis grinned broadly, and the packed arena burst into thunderous applause as Dolan expressed his thanks for the Pope’s presence near the end of the Mass.

“And, please, don’t forget to pray for me,” Pope Francis said with a smile.

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