Pope Francis arrives today for his first visit to the United States. He will do many significant things in his six days with us. He will visit the White House, address Congress and the United Nations, and participate in a multi-religious service at New York's 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center site.
I will have the privilege of being with the Holy Father on Wednesday, Sept. 23, when he leads the United States bishops in prayer at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and later celebrates the canonization Mass for Blessed Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has invited the bishops of New York state to gather with Pope Francis in New York's St. Patrick Cathedral for evening prayer on Thursday and for Mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday.
The primary reason for the pope's visit is the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. I will join a delegation of our Catholic people from Western New York who will be in Philadelphia for this event, during which the pope will visit the Festival of Families and Prayer Vigil and celebrate the Sunday closing Mass before he returns to Rome.
It was our beloved St. John Paul II, acclaimed as the "Pope of the Family," who began the World Meeting of Families in 1994 in Rome. His motivation was to explore the critical and irreplaceable role the family plays in society and Church, and to offer families the opportunity to discuss the challenges and blessings that every family encounters.
The theme of the World Meeting of Families is "Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive." How significant it is that family is also the focus of the two synods called by Pope Francis for October 2014 and 2015. The key question for both synods: How do we as Church more effectively minister with families in all of their various situations? How can we most faithfully and fruitfully accompany families along the journey of life and salvation?
Let us all pray for our Holy Father as he prepares to join us as St. Peter's successor in our midst, the Vicar of Christ. Let us pray that through him, Jesus' words to Peter in Luke 22 will be prayerfully confirmed in our midst: "I will pray for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail and ... you will strengthen your brothers (and sisters)."
Welcome Pope Francis!