PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pope Francis delivered a speech in front of a crowd of about 40,000 Saturday afternoon at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
When Pope Francis’ popemobile made its way to Independence Hall, thousands lined the route. The Holy Father kissed several babies along the way.
“The Fanfare for the Common Man” was played and the Holy Father walked out the doors of Independence Hall.
Speaking from the same lectern Abraham Lincoln used to deliver the Gettysburg Address, Pope Francis reached backed into the nation’s history to deliver a message about the future.
On these historic grounds Pope Francis reminded the crowd Independence Hall serves as a beacon around the world.
But while speaking in Spanish, he challenged the crowd to constantly reaffirm the lofty principles of freedom and tolerance.
“We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at the successive waves of new Americans.”
People in the crowd soaked up every word.
“It was amazing, it was something I don’t think any word can explain how happy I feel, from my heart,” said Luis Roman of Puerto Rico.
“And then I got to sit right up front so it was so incredible to see him in person, a once in a lifetime experience definitely,” said Marybeth Griffin of Philadelphia.
The biggest themes of his speech, immigration and religious freedom.
He encouraged people of all faiths to continue to fight for the poor and immigrants.
“You remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and you remind us that society is weakened, weakened whenever and wherever any injustice prevails.”
“I can’t stop crying. It’s just an emotion, a big emotion,” said Bernardina Rodriguez of Puerto Rico.
“He attracted all these people. I’m not even Catholic I go to Mother Bethel.”
Pope Francis, the son of Italian immigrants, was born in Argentina.
He took the time to specifically address Hispanics in the United States.
“I ask you not to forget: like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation. Please. Don’t ever be ashamed of your traditions.”
Listen to the full address…
He said to the crowd may God bless you all and I ask you please pray for me a little bit too.
This was one of the Pope’s several public events today in Philadelphia. Earlier, he celebrated mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. He later attended the Festival of Families at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
KYW’s John McDevitt and CBS 3’s Todd Quinones contributed to this report.