11 reasons why Pope Francis is welcome back to the U.S. anytime

ByRachel Schwartz via WPVI logo
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the Speaker's Balcony on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, after his address to a joint meeting of Congress.
AP

We loved every second of Pope Francis' historic, first-ever visit to the United States. Here's why the Pope of the People is welcome back anytime:

1.Pope Francis was riding in style everywhere he went.

Whether he was greeting the masses from the popemobile or just casually waving out the window of the zippy papal Fiat, seeing what mode of transportation would get the pope from one event to the next was almost as fun as seeing the man himself. Even his plane was an extra special ride -- a seemingly normal American Airlines jet renamed "Shepherd One" just for him.

2. He appreciates a good selfie.

Call him the pope of the digital age -- getting to see Pope Francis in person was a once in a lifetime event and people wanted the selfies to prove it. Never one to disappoint his followers, Pope Francis made time to pose for dozens of selfies throughout his trip and the results were enviable.

3. We love watching him kiss all the babies.

Talk about a sure-fire way to melt even the hardest of hearts -- watching the pope gently bless all of the babies brought to him during the papal parades had us saying "awwww" again and again.

4. Seriously, he's the best with babies.

If we had to pick a favorite baby-pope moment from the trip, it would have to be little Quinn Madden. When Pope Francis saw the baby girl dressed as a tiny pontiff, it cracked him up and after blessing her with a kiss, one of his security guards told Quinn's dad that he had a great sense of humor.

5. He reminded us all of the importance of family.

In an animated speech during the Festival of Families Celebration in Philadelphia, Pope Francis called families "a factory of hope" and said that "in families, there is always light."

Before the end of his trip, Francis even made time to meet with one special family -- Argentinians Catire Walker and Noel Zemborain and their four children, who drove 13,000 miles in an old Volkswagen van so they could see the pope in Philadelphia.

6. Pope Francis respected and honored our history.

The pope clearly did his homework before coming to the U.S. In his speech before Congress, Francis referenced American heroes Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as church organizer Dorothy Day and theologian Thomas Merton. In Philadelphia, he gave a speech at Independence Hall from a lectern used by Lincoln when he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Francis even quoted the famed speech in his remarks about immigration and religious freedom.

7. He made time for important moments, even when he had places to be.

The pope's six-day visit was packed with event from morning to night. But somehow, despite the marathon schedule of events, Pope Francis still made time for unscheduled moments. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Francis was already in his car and heading off to Mass when he stopped to bless a young boy. Eleven-year-old Michael Keating has cerebral palsy and was at the airport with his family because his father is the director of the marching band that performed during the arrival ceremony. Michael's mother was moved to tears by the gesture and said she believes Michael felt the pope's blessing.

8. The enthusiasm around his visit was electric.

Hundreds of thousands people lined the streets in Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia for a chance to see Pope Francis in a show of enthusiasm that is normally only reserved for sports championships or major holidays. But despite the record-setting crowds, people were friendly and cheerful and more than willing to show off their excitement in fun and creative ways.

9. He went to see the people who couldn't come to him.

Pope Francis could have easily spent his time in the United States celebrating Mass, meeting with dignitaries and waving to crowds from the popemobile, but he also went out of his was to see a group of people that couldn't go to see him -- incarcerated inmates at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. The pope told the prisoners that "life is a journey" and that the different paths people take leave their marks. He also advocated for the importance of rehabilitation in the criminal justice system, saying everyone has a role to play in helping them rejoin society.

10. He addressed the church sex abuse scandal.

In a speech before bishops, strongly condemned the clergy sex abuse scandal, saying that "God weeps for the sexual abuse of children." While the church has cracked down on abusive priests in recent years, the pope's comments on Sunday, which he re-affirmed during a briefing with reporters on the plane back to Rome, mark the first time the pope has said those who covered up the crimes of abusers are guilty of wrongdoing.

11. He made history while he was here.

Pope Francis became the first ever pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress. But what could have easily been a light speech of platitudes about visiting our great country was filled with challenges to lawmakers, including the pope's desire to see the death penalty abolished, a call for Americans to welcome migrants and a warning that the fight against religious extremism should not trample on freedom.

What was your favorite part of the pope's visit to the United States? Let us know in the comments!