THE CROSS OF ENCOUNTER AND THE PROMISE OF AMERICA

By Archbishop Gomez
Independence Hall, Philadelphia
September 26, 2015
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(Archbishop Gomez delivered this address at Independence Hall in Philadelphia during the pastoral visit of the Holy Father Pope Francis.)

¡Saludos a mis hermanos y hermanas! !Y Bienvenidos!

Greetings my brothers and sisters! And welcome! As you just heard, I am Archbishop José Gomez from Los Angeles.

It is beautiful to see you all here today! Look around you! What you see is the beautiful vision of America’s founders: One nation under God. A rich diversity of families from every nationality and culture.

I see a nation of immigrants — people from every land and language; families from every race and religion. All of us committed to human dignity, religious liberty, and justice for everyone.

My brothers and sisters, we are gathered today in this historic place where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were adopted.

On Wednesday, I had the privilege to be with Pope Francis for another historic moment — the canonization of St. Junípero Serra in our nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C.

He is our first Latino saint from the United States! Thanks be to God!

Our new American saint was a Latino immigrant and a missionary. He came from Spain to evangelize in Mexico and then he brought Christianity up from Mexico to California. He helped establish the American tradition of freedom and human rights.

So his canonization is historic. For Latinos, yes, definitely! But this is a great moment for all the peoples of the Americas, North and South!

Now today, Pope Francis is coming to this historic place. The first Latino Pope is coming to the birthplace of American society and culture. And the Pope is going to bless La Cruz de los Encuentros.

The Encuentro Cross is a symbol of our faith-journey as Latinos in America. And for me, personally, La Cruz de los Encuentros is also a symbol — of the promise of America.

This cross reminds us that long before the founding fathers gathered here in Philadelphia, — immigrant families and missionaries from Spain and Latin America were already at work.

La Cruz de los Encuentros reminds us that the Catholic faith of the Latino people has shaped the American story from the beginning.

This cross that the Pope will bless is a sign of where America came from. And this cross is a sign of what America is meant to be.

This nation was founded to be a crossroads of encounter. A place where men and women of every culture and religion can live in peace — serving God and their neighbors and serving society.

This nation was founded to be a land of freedom and truth — where every life is precious and protected, because every life is sacred to our Creator.

My brothers and sisters, this cross of encounter is a sign of who we are — as Latinos, as Catholics, and as Americans.

And this identity gives us a mission. No matter who we are.

We all share in the story and the promise of America. And we all share in the mission of making America what it is meant to be.

Today it is our turn to take up this cross and follow in the footsteps of the immigrants and missionaries who have gone before us.

My brothers and sisters, we need to bring a new generation to the encounter with God! To the encounter with our Father’s love and mercy — which makes all of us one family of God.

St. Junípero Serra — pray for us!

And may God be gracious to all of you and your families — and may his face always shine upon you and grant you peace. And may our Blessed Mother, the Virgin of Guadalupe, watch over you with her tender love.

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