On Sunday, “Shepherd One”, the aptly named Boeing 777-200 carrying Pope Francis, departed Philadelphia for Rome, ending the pope’s historic maiden voyage to the United States. The six-day trip, which included visits to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, was marked by memorable, humorous, and often poignant moments that earned the famously humble leader of the Catholic Church a place in the heart of millions of Americans across the nation.
Below, we bring you the top five highlights from Pope Francis‘ U.S. visit!
1. Addresses Congress
In a historic speech delivered on Thursday, Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress. While his speech covered a broad range of topics from global security to the Syrian refugee crisis, the most heartfelt moments came when he touched upon immigration.
Making a plea to Americans not to turn their back on their “neighbors”, Pope Francis said:
“We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.
“[…] On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities,” he said. “Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”
The moving remarks left several members Congress, including Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, in tears.
2. Little Girl Breaks Through Barriers, Captures Pope Francis’ Heart
Following his address at the White House on Wednesday, Pope Francis’ procession came to a halt when 5-year-old Sofi Cruz broke through security barriers and ran toward the Pontiff. Though guards made an effort to restrain her, Pope Francis waved her forward, saying, “Let her come to me.”
Wearing pigtails and a red floral dress, Cruz was then carried to Pope Francis’ vehicle, where he greeted her with a hug. Cruz, a California native and the child of undocumented immigrants, gave him two things in return: a t-shirt, and a letter from her father asking the pope to intercede on behalf of all the struggling immigrants in the U.S.
3. Real Pope Meets Baby Pope
When Dana and Daniel Madden dressed their infant daughter Quinn in an exact replica of Pope Francis’ white robe and mitre, they probably weren’t expecting it to earn her a personal blessing from the Pontiff himself. But as the papal motorcade made its way down the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pope Francis quickly picked baby Quinn out of the crowd that lined the streets.
Pointing to the baby and chuckling, Pope Francis asked his security detail to fetch the child from her mother’s arms and bring her to him. He blessed her and gave her a kiss on the cheek before handing her back to his guard, who delivered the baby to her parents, telling them that the pope said they have a great sense of humor.
4. Family Travels 13,000 Miles to Meet Pope Francis
Back in March, Argentinians Catire Walker and Noel Zemborain quit their jobs, took their four children, and piled into a 1960s Volkswagen minibus, setting off on a 13,000-mile road trip that brought them to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families 194 days later. Crossing 12 borders and staying with dozens of host families, they documented their 6-month-long pilgrimage online. They were rewarded with a personal blessing from Pope Francis himself.
5. The First Saint is Canonized in America
In the first canonization on U.S. soil, Juniperro Serra, an 18th century missionary responsible for bringing Catholicism to the American West Coast, was elevated to sainthood by Pope Francis during a Spanish-language Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. A Franciscan friar, Serra marched north from Baja with a group of Spanish conquistadors, establishing 9 of the 21 missions in California. Despite the controversy surrounding Serra, whom Native Americans have claimed enslaved converts and spread disease among the indigenous population, his canonization is seen as a huge step forward in acknowledging the Hispanic history that helped build the American church.