PHILADELPHIA — The family is at the heart of the Roman Catholic faith and at the center of celebrations here this weekend at the World Meeting of Families.

That’s the message Bishop Robert Deeley of Maine delivered Saturday to 1,200 pilgrims from across the United States during a Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, about an hour outside Philadelphia.

Among the listeners were about 100 Mainers on pilgrimages organized by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and Saint Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor.

After the Mass, the Maine groups headed to Philadelphia, hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis during welcoming events at the Festival of Families on Saturday evening on the milelong Benjamin Franklin Parkway. By late afternoon, they made it through a security check and were at Philadelphia City Hall, where they watched the pontiff speak at Independence Hall on a large video screen surrounded by thousands.

“People at work said I’d probably have a better view of him at home, but I wanted to be here in the midst of all this,” said Lorraine Auclair of Greenville as she waited for the pope to pass by on the parade route.

Deeley’s homily at the shrine on the importance of family – with marriage as its foundation – resonated with Sabrina Arel, 28, of Lisbon, an office manager who teaches religion to young Catholics.


“Sometimes we forget that marriage is a vocation, too,” said Arel, who marveled at the beauty of the shrine and the bishop’s willingness to celebrate Mass with the pilgrims.

Founded in 1953 to bolster the faith of Polish Catholics in the United States, the shrine houses a reproduction of the Black Madonna icon of Czestochowa, Poland.

For the Mainers on the pilgrimage organized by the diocese, the day started with a bus ride from their hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during which 46 people recited the rosary in unison, repeating a mesmerizing series of Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

The pilgrimage ambassador then played an audio recording over the intercom of a talk on the importance of family that he attended Friday during the World Meeting of Families.

As the bus headed onto Interstate 95 to pass through Philadelphia, traffic was forced to a sudden stop by police cruisers. In the distance, on a completely different stretch of highway, the pope’s motorcade entered the city via the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

“I thought, ‘That might be the closest we get to him,’ ” said Lee Street of Raymond, who is on the pilgrimage with her mother, Jini Fitzgibbons of Bridgton.


But at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, the pontiff rode by the Maine pilgrims in the popemobile on his way to the parkway and the Festival of Families. The crowd roared and the Maine pilgrims cheered.

“We saw the pope, and he’s super cute,” said Lauren Stone of Westbrook.

The pilgrims from Maine plan to be among an estimated 1 million faithful expected to attend a Mass celebrated by the pope Sunday afternoon on the parkway.


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