Pope Francis ends landmark U.S. visit amid fanfare, skepticism

On the last day of his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis met privately and apologized on Sunday to survivors of sexual abuse by priests and others in Philadelphia. NewsHour's Stephen Fee, who has been covering the Pope's visit, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the rest of the pontiff's day.

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    In Philadelphia, Pope Francis is in the final hours of his first ever visit to the United States.

    At a seminary this morning, the pope met privately with five survivors of sexual abuse by priests and others. Francis apologized to victims, saying, in part — quote — "I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed."

    The pope later told 300 bishops he was — quote — "overwhelmed with shame" for how some priests had behaved, and he pledged zealous vigilance to protect children.

    POPE FRANCIS, Leader of Catholic Church (through translator): Crimes of sexual abuse of children cannot be maintained in secret for longer. And I commit to a zealous oversight from the church to ensure that youth are protected and that all those responsible will be held accountable.


    "NewsHour"'s Stephen Fee is covering the pope's weekend in Philadelphia, and joins me now to discuss the rest of the pope's day.

    So, Stephen, how did the pope spend his last day here in the U.S.?


    Yes, Hari, he started the morning off at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.

    That's where he discussed meeting with abuse victims. He then continued on to a Philadelphia area correctional facility, where he met with inmates and their families. And then he capped off the day here on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the center of Philadelphia to join hundreds of thousands of faithful for an open-air mass.

    It's likely the largest gathering of this, his 10th international journey as pontiff and his first swing through the United States.


    So, Stephen, what makes this trip to Philadelphia different from his visits to Washington, D.C., and New York?


    Well, Hari, you know, in those places on Capitol Hill and the halls of the General Assembly, he was talking to world leaders about issues like global income inequality and climate change.

    Here, the pope is really addressing the faithful. You know, after all, the purported reason for his visit was the World Meeting of Families here in Philadelphia. And that's especially meaningful for Philadelphians. There's more than a million Catholics here.

    The city was also shaken deeply by the sexual abuse scandal. Now, is this going to bring more people into the pews in church every Sunday? Is it going to forgive the crimes of the past? Maybe, maybe not. But for the people that we have met since we have been here from around the country, around the world, this is really putting a human face on an institution that numbers more than a billion members.


    Well, what's the security situation like? Is that different than these other cities?


    You know, I think so, Hari.

    It's sort of a combination of a festival environment and total lockdown. We got here on Friday afternoon. Main streets in Philadelphia were already closed down to traffic. There's pedestrians out, bikes out. We waited with the — with the security line on the way in here today. It took us two hours to get in.

    The line nearly doubled by the time we were in. So, there's a lot of lockdown here if Philly.


    OK. When he heads back to Rome this evening, what's next for him? What's next for the church?



    Well, you know, he will fly out of here, and he will meet briefly with Vice President Joe Biden. And when he returns to Rome, the story continues. Bishops in the Vatican will be meeting on issues of the family in the coming days. They will be talking about some of those hot-button issues that we have been talking about, about marriage and divorce and annulment, about the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, and, of course, the issue of women in the church, who still aren't permitted into the clergy and are seldom found in the higher echelons of power in the Catholic Church.

    You know, it's an important time for the pope. After all, despite his open message, he's still the leader of the Catholic Church. And there are still strong establishment strains there. So, it remains to be seen what kind of mark he will leave during his papacy.


    All right, "NewsHour"'s Stephen Fee, joining us from Philadelphia, thanks so much.


    Thank you, Hari.

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