September 26, 2015 at 9:20 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden

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Gay New York City Councilmen Daniel Dromm, left, and Corey Johnson attend a Mass that Pope Francis celebrated at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on Sept. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Michael Mallon)

NEW YORK — Pope Francis on Friday celebrated Mass at New York’s Madison Square Garden before more than 20,000 people.

The pontiff during his homily said living “in a big city is not always easy.” He also noted their “multicultural context presents many complex challenges.”

“Yet big cities are a reminder of the hidden riches present in our world: In the diversity of its cultures, traditions and historical experiences,” said Francis. “In the variety of its languages, costumes and cuisine. Big cities bring together all the different ways which we human beings have discovered to express the meaning of life, wherever we may be.”

Francis also highlighted those who are marginalized — foreigners, children who lack an education, people without health insurance, the homeless and elderly — can also go unnoticed in large cities, such as New York.

“These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity,” said Francis. “They become part of an urban landscape, which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts.”

Gay comedian and journalist Mo Rocca read a liturgy at the opening of the Mass. Singers Jennifer Hudson and Gloria Estefan were among those who also took part in the gathering.

Gay New York City Councilmen Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) and Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) attended the Mass. They both wore buttons from Dignity New York, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBT Catholics, with the slogan “opening wide the doors to Christ.”

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Gay New York City Councilman Corey Johnson

Francis in his homily did not mention marriage rights for same-sex couples, homosexuality and other LGBT-specific issues.

The pontiff earlier on Friday during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly referred to “ideological colonization” — a phrase he has previously used to apparently criticize efforts to allow gays and lesbians to exchange vows — and “anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.”

Francis on Thursday told Congress the “very basis of marriage and the family” is being “called into question.” The Argentine-born pontiff during his speech at the White House earlier in the week called for a “tolerant and inclusive” society.

“As an openly gay Roman Catholic, I welcome Pope Francis’ more tolerant approach to issues surrounding sexuality and hope the Roman Catholic church changes its theology on homosexuality,” Dromm told the Washington Blade after attending Friday’s Mass. “The Holy Father’s calls for urgent action on climate change, income inequality and immigration reform serve as a wake up call for politicians and other leaders who have ignored these issues for far too long. For this the pope should be commended.”

Francis on Saturday arrived in Philadelphia for the final leg of his trip to the U.S. and Cuba.

A vigil at the World Meeting of Families is among the events scheduled to take place in the city. The pontiff on Sunday afternoon will celebrate Mass on Benjamin Franklin Parkway before returning to Rome.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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