PHILADELPHIA -- Pope Francis celebrated a final Mass with hundreds of thousands of joyful Catholics assembled on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, offering a classic Sunday sermon-style address to stir the enthusiasm of the faithful.
On the last night of his six-day visit to the United States, the pope urged the gathering that stretched more than a mile, from the Philadelphia Art Museum to City Hall, to be open to the Holy Spirit’s work in their daily lives and to be courageous in their faith.
“Would that we could all be prophets! Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world,” Francis said.
The open-air Mass was the biggest event of the pope’s American tour and capped off a week of appearances, ranging from speeches to Congress, at the 9/11 Memorial and the United Nations to meeting with bishops, nuns, immigrants and the homeless. The pontiff urged world leaders to take action on climate change, poverty, the drug trade and the death penalty; he also made passionate appeals about God's love for all people in front of lay Catholics and bishops and in separate meetings with sex abuse victims and prisoners Sunday morning.
But during his homily Sunday, the pope spoke as a pastor to a congregation, albeit an unusually large one, saying that faith is found in the seemingly small acts of love and kindness that people undertake every day.
"Holiness is tied to little gestures," he said; "love is shown by little things" and "faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love."
"Our families -- our homes -- are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life and life to become faith," he said.
After months of preparation and increased security that closed down more than two dozen city blocks to cars, church officials had expected a million people or more for the Mass. An official head count wasn’t immediately available, as long security lines and street barriers had kept back at least some crowds. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the pontiff's host, had ordered hundreds of thousands of communion wafers and had 1,500 priests and deacons ready to distribute the wafers -- but not wine -- over 20 minutes.
The Mass was celebrated after a day of music and dance, with performers including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale, the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters and a hand bell ensemble. Some attendees -- many of whom had come from around the nation and from places as far as Argentina and Kuwait -- had slept on the streets overnight in order to get spots closer to Francis. Other pilgrims had pitched tents in South Philadelphia cemetery, while more than 500 buses with 26,000 passengers had arrived into the city by early morning for the pontiff’s afternoon finale.
Francis, who celebrated Mass as the concluding event to the Festival of Families -- a family-focused Catholic gathering on Philadelphia’s main parkway -- also touched often on the role of families in fostering a better world. The festival was part of the World Meeting of Families, an international Catholic conference that takes place every three years in a different part of the globe and focuses on Catholic views of marriage, and raising kids.
“What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?” Francis asked in his homily, paraphrasing his encyclical on the environment and human ecology, Laudato Si, which was released in June.
"We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family," he said. "The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change."
Francis was scheduled to briefly meet organizers and volunteers of the World Meeting of Families after the Mass. At 8 p.m., he is scheduled to depart from Philadelphia for Rome.
Follow HuffPost's live blog on the papal visit: