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America ‘blessed with tremendous gifts and opportunities’, says Pope at the end of visit

Pope Francis waves to the crowd at Philadelphia International Airport (AP)

America is a “land blessed with tremendous gifts and opportunities”, Pope Francis has said in the final speech of his papal visit to the country.

Speaking at Philadelphia Airport to an audience made up of Vice President Joe Biden, members of the World Meeting of Families’ organising committee, volunteers and benefactors, the Pope said: “I pray that you may all be good and generous stewards of the human and material resources entrusted to you. I will pray for you and your families, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. May God bless you all. God bless America!”

He added: “My days with you have been brief. But they have been days of great grace for me and, I pray, for you too. Please know that as I prepare to leave, I do so with a heart full of gratitude and hope.

“I thank the Lord that I was able to witness the faith of God’s people in this country, as manifested in our moments of prayer together and evidenced in so many works of charity. Jesus says in the Scriptures: ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’.

“Your care for me and your generous welcome are a sign of your love for Jesus and your faithfulness to him. So too is your care for the poor, the sick, the homeless and the immigrant, your defense of life at every stage, and your concern for family life. In all of this, you recognise that Jesus is in your midst and that your care for one another is care for Jesus himself.”

Francis implored audience members “not to let your enthusiasm for Jesus, his Church, our families, and the broader family of society run dry”.

Before boarding his American Airlines flight to Rome at 7.30pm, Pope Francis made the sign of the cross and then waved from the plane window.

Earlier in the day Pope Francis celebrated Mass with hundreds of thousands of people in Philadelphia at the closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families.