Pope Francis arrived in New York City Thursday night and headed directly to St. Patrick's Cathedral to take part in evening prayers called vespers.
In his address to priests and members of Catholic parishes, the pontiff touched on the clergy sex abuse crisis, which has racked the Catholic church for decades.
"I know that, as a presbyterate in the midst of God’s people, you suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the church in the most vulnerable of her members," Francis said. "I accompany you at this time of pain and difficulty, and I thank God for your faithful service to his people."
The pontiff also offered Catholics a stern warning against luxury and greed, saying that danger comes "when we think that surrounding ourselves with worldly comforts will help us serve better."
Doing so "alienates people who suffer material poverty and are forced to make greater sacrifices than ourselves," Francis said. He acknowledged that "moments of leisure" are necessary, but said they should not interfere with the responsibility to serve others.
"Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all God’s other poor, will teach us a different way of resting, one which is more Christian and generous," the pope said.
Francis encouraged those gathered to embrace a spirit of joy, practice gratitude and serve others with hard work and humility. He noted, in particular, the work of Catholic women whose "spirit of courage" places them on the front lines of the church's mission to share the gospel.
In an unscripted moment, Pope Francis offered sympathies to Muslims on this holy day of Eid: "I am thinking of them, I'm close to them in the face of the tragedy that they suffered in Mecca."
Thursday night's vespers mark the fifth time a pope has visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, which recently finished a three-year renovation. The first was Pope Paul VI in 1965, followed by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and 1995. Pope Benedict XVI visited the cathedral in 2008, and, like Francis, prayed for healing from the church's sex abuse crisis during his address.
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