Pope calls for more “active engagement” with women, laity in church

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Pope Francis on Saturday called for a more active role for women and laity in the Catholic Church at a mass with church leaders in Philadelphia.

“We know that the future of the church in a rapidly changing society” calls for “a much more active engagement” with women and laity, the pontiff said.

At the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul the pope spoke of the “immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make to the life of our communities.”

Francis arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday morning from New York.

The pope, the first from Latin American, also spoke about religious freedom to immigrants at Independence Hall, where both the US Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.

“It was here that the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed,” he said.

On Saturday evening Pope Francis took part in the Festival of Families, the initial impetus behind his 6-day trip to the United States, which also included Washington and New York.

More than 1 million people were expected to gather in downtown Philadelphia for the pope’s appearance.

Francis will fly back to Rome on Sunday evening after participating in a closing mass of the Festival of Families and a visit to a prison.

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