After hearing a series of people tell their personal stories of faith, love and family, Pope Francis capped the Festival of Families on Saturday by discussing his own vision of the family, talking about the roles that faith and family play together, and the importance of love and commitment.
"The most beautiful thing that God did, says the Bible, was the family," said Francis, speaking before a huge crowd on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
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Francis strayed far from his prepared remarks, getting animated as he talked about the role families played in the Bible - from Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel to Mary and Joseph - and how family and love can help overcome problems.
"Some of you might say, ‘Father, you speak because you’re not married,'" Francis said. "Families have difficulties. Families will quarrel. Sometimes plates can fly. And children bring headaches. I don’t want to speak about mothers-in-law. But in families, there is always light.
"In the family, there are indeed difficulties. But those difficulties are overcome with love. Hatred is not capable of dealing with any difficulty, and overcoming any difficulty. Division of hearts cannot overcome any difficulty. Only love is able to overcome.
"Family is beautiful, but there’s effort involved, and there are problems. Husbands and wives quarrel, and end up badly, separated. Never let the day end without making peace. Let’s protect the family, because it’s in the family that our future is at play."
After each testimonial, Pope Francis approached the family and spoke to them, shook their hands and gave them kisses. He hugged the boy in the wheelchair with cerebral palsey. And at the final event of the Pope's fifth day in the United States, the focus was clear: The importance of faith in family.
In between the testimonials, musicians sang, dancers danced and Mark Wahlberg served as the Master of Ceremonies.
"All that is beautiful, all that is beautiful, all that is beautiful leads us to god," Francis said, thanking those who performed at the event. "Because God is good, God is beautiful, God is good."
The event caps the fifth day of a whirlwind six-day U.S. trip in which Pope Francis has visited the White House, addressed a joint session of Congress, participated in a multi-religious service at Ground Zero and addressed world leaders at the United Nation's General Assembly.
The Pope took yet another trip in his Popemobile en route to the festival, but this time the inside of the partially enclosed dome was lit so those standing in the Philly twilight could get a good look at the spiritual leader.
Once at the festival, he was greeted by the thousands of people who have been dealing with strict security measures all day for a chance to catch a glimpse of him. Many people were still trying to get past security lines as the Popemobile was slowly making its way through Philly's streets.
After waving to the crowds, he arrived on stage, where he watched the show and listened to the testimonials.
Singer/songwriter Marie Miller performed while being accompanied by the Pennsylvania Ballet, as did The Fray.
With Pope Francis sitting up in his chair on stage and listening intently, the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, performed a stunning edition of "Amazing Grace" with a choir behind her that drew large cheers from the crowd. As she finished her rendition and exited stage right, she caught the Holy Spirit and did a bit of a praise dance.