Pope Francis held a virtual audience with Americans in three U.S. cities on Monday, just weeks ahead of his first visit to the country later this month. In the first official meeting with the American public, the pope once again demonstrated his priority to pastor to often-marginalized communities by targeting issues relating to youth, homelessness and immigration.
During the audience, which will be part of an ABC News special airing on Friday, the pope said he is praying for the U.S. and asked for Americans' prayers in turn.
The pope spoke from the Vatican to students at the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, individuals from homeless shelters in Los Angeles and immigrants at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church near the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas.
One 17-year-old student started crying as she told the pope about being bullied for a skin condition she has had her whole life. She said she has found strength in music, which inspired Pope Francis to make a special request.
"I would like to hear you sing," the pope said in English. "May I ask of you to sing a song for me? Be courageous!" The teenager then treated Francis to song in the Argentine pope's native Spanish.
The virtual audience, moderated by "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir, offered Pope Francis a chance to connect with Americans in cities he will be unable to visit during his trip in late September.
Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22 and will visit New York City and Philadelphia before flying home to Rome on Sept. 27. The pontiff's trip will emphasize care for "the least of these," as referenced in Christian scripture and which has been a major theme of his papacy. He will meet with prisoners, immigrants, elementary school children and family members of Sept. 11 victims.
The one-hour ABC special, titled "Pope Francis and the People," will air on the ABC Television Network on Friday at 10 p.m. EST.
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