Pope Francis celebrated Mass before a massive audience of 19,000 at New York's Madison Square Garden on Friday and delivered an emotional appeal to remember those who frequently go unseen in big cities.
City life presents many opportunities for learning about new cultures, he said, but it can also create a "deafening anonymity" in which those most in need are neglected.
"Big cities conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens," said the pope, who grew up in Buenos Aires and delivered his speech Friday in Spanish. "In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath 'the rapid pace of change,' so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no 'right' to be there, no right to be part of the city."
These are "the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly," the pontiff said. They "stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity."
More than 56,000 homeless men, women and children live in New York City, according to Bowery Mission. The pope implored New Yorkers to seek out Jesus on the streets and among those in need.
"God is in the city," he said. "Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope."
The pope recounted that in the Bible, Jesus urges his disciples to share the good news with any and all people. "[Jesus] keeps telling his disciples to go, to go out," Francis said. "He urges them to go out and meet others where they really are, not where we think they should be. Go out, again and again, go out without fear, without hesitation. Go out and proclaim this joy which is for all the people."
The pope demonstrated the healing power of this work as he entered the building by praying for and touching the head of a sick child, whose weeping parents were holding him.
Encounters with those in need "free us from anonymity," as well as "selfishness" and "self-absorption," the pontiff said. He left the audience with invitation to be "witnesses" to the light of Christ in the midst of the urban sprawl.
The Madison Square Garden Mass marks the pope's final address in New York City. He heads to Philadelphia on Saturday to participate in the World Meeting of Families and meet with immigrants at Independence Mall.
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