Pope Francis Says Goodbye, As U.S. Trip Concludes In Philadelphia

People gather on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before the Papal Mass on Sunday in Philadelphia. (Michael Perez/AP)
People gather on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before the Papal Mass on Sunday in Philadelphia. (Michael Perez/AP)

Updated at 8:50 a.m. ET on Sept. 28

Pope Francis has bid the United States farewell. His plane departed for Rome on Sunday night, thus bringing to a close his first visit to U.S. soil.

"My days with you have been brief, but they have been days of great grace for me. And I pray for you, too," the pontiff said, in a brief ceremony at the Philadelphia International Airport before his flight's departure. "As I prepare to leave, I do so with a heart full of gratitude and hope."

These were among the final words the pope spoke publicly. Above the occasional screech of planes overhead, Pope Francis reflected on themes that characterized much of his trip: the importance of family, and the responsibility of the U.S. as stewards of opportunity.

"We know that evil never has the last word," Francis said. "And that in God's merciful plan, love and peace triumph over all."

Before his remarks, while at the airport, the pope also met with Vice President Joe Biden, exchanging greetings before stepping to the lectern.

Earlier in the day, tens of thousands of people gathered in Philadelphia to see Francis as his popemobile wound through the streets ahead of his last Mass on U.S. soil before departing this evening for a return trip to Rome.

The pope waved to the crowd as his motorcade, flanked by cycle police and official vehicles, made its way to the dais. At one point, the popemobile stopped so Francis could greet well-wishers.

Following opening prayers, the pope listened during multilingual readings from the Bible.

The pontiff spoke of family relations.

"May children find in us models of communion, not of division," he said.

People gather on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the papal Mass on the final day events with Pope Francis in Philadelphia, on Sunday. After six days in the U.S., Francis returns to Rome Sunday evening. (Mark Makela/Reuters/Landov)

"Jesus knows that where children are concerned, we are capable of boundless generosity," he said.

We must "overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, mistrustful, closed in on itself and impatient of others."

Earlier, Francis met with victims of child sex abuse and decried the priest pedophile scandal, saying "God weeps" over what has happened as he promised to do what is necessary to hold those responsible accountable for their sins.

Before he makes a scheduled 8 p.m. ET departure for the Vatican, Francis is expected to have a private meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden and to greet and bless some 5000 members of the World Meeting of Families.

Correction: September 28, 2015 12:00 am — A previous version of this post wrongly stated that Pope Francis referred to the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage as "a tragic error" and a "profoundly immoral and unjust" decision. The pope did not say this. The remarks were part of an Associated Press report on the views of U.S. bishops.

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