Pope tells immigrants not to be discouraged

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PHILADELPHIA – Pope Francis said that America’s immigrant community should not to be discouraged by hardships and should be responsible citizens.

Francis delivered a speech on religious freedom and immigration in front of about 40,000 people at Independence Hall Saturday.

He implored the immigrants in the crowd to be proud of their heritage and to never be ashamed of their traditions.

Francis also said Americans should avoid repeating past mistakes and that people of all faiths should join together to call for respect and dignity of others.

As he finished his speech, some among the many immigrant groups in the crowd shouted, “Francisco! Francisco! Francisco!”

After a break, Francis will take part in a World Meeting of Families festival Saturday night but restaurant owners across Philadelphia are complaining that heavy security from his visit scared off their customers.

Stephen Starr operates more than 20 restaurants in the city. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer the slowdown has been so bad that “this affected business worse than Hurricane Sandy.”

The website Open Table shows reservations are readily available at prime times Saturday at even the most popular spots.

Organizers have long said the World Meeting of Families that drew the pope to Philadelphia would be an economic boon to the city. But as the event drew closer, city officials were criticized for issuing dire warnings of travel difficulties and service shutdowns.

Schools and many businesses closed, and many residents left town in the days leading up to Francis’ arrival.

Organizers still expect Saturday night’s concert headlined by Aretha Franklin to attract hundreds of thousands, and they say more than a million will watch Francis celebrate Mass on Sunday