RELIGION
09/27/2015 04:43 pm ET Updated Sep 27, 2015

Pope Offers Classic Sunday Sermon To Move The Faithful On Last Day In U.S.

“Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love.”

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.

Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway iSeptemb
Pool via Getty Images
Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway iSeptember 27, 2015 n Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

“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.

Faithful gather for an open-air Mass lead by Pope Francis at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Sept. 27, 2015.
JEWEL SAMAD/Getty Images
Faithful gather for an open-air Mass lead by Pope Francis at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Sept. 27, 2015. The 78-year-old head of the Catholic Church wraps up a six-day tour of the U.S. that 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.

Pope Francis greets faithful as he celbrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27
VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
Pope Francis greets faithful as he celbrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 

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.

Women listen listen to Pope Francis during Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015.&nbs
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Women listen listen to Pope Francis during Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015. 

"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:

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    Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 at the end of his six-day visit to the US. 
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    People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
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    A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
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    A family prays as they watch a Mass on a large screen.
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    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
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    Catholic devotees sing as they watch Pope Francis' Mass.
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    Women pray as they watch the Mass.
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     A U.S. Army serviceman receives communion during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
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    Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (C) walks to receive communion.
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    Catholic devotees watch a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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    A woman does the sign of the cross as she take part in a Mass with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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    People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis is in the United State for the last of 6 days during his first trip as the leader of the Catholic Church. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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    Jaweed Kaleem/The Huffington Post
    Priests offer the crowd communion at Mass along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27, 2015.
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis celebrates mass during the World Meeting of Families on September 27, 2015 in P
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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis celebrates mass during the World Meeting of Families on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
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    Pool via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
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    VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
    Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
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    Chalices for communion are set during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
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  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 2
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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis wraps up his trip to the United States with two days in Philadelphia, attending the Festival of Families and meeting with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Photo by Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)
  • Pope Francis arrives for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 26, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO
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    Pope Francis arrives for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
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