By GABRIELA LIRA

At the symbolic Independence Hall in Philadelphia and in many other stops during his journey to the United States, Pope Francis called for immigrants to be proud of who they are and urged all Americans to welcome them.

“Never be ashamed of your traditions,” he said in Spanish on Sept. 26 to thousands of people in Independence Park. “Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which is something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”

The son of Italian immigrants told immigrants that they bring many gifts to America and that although they have endured many challenges and still struggle to stay in the country, they should be proud of themselves. He said they should “remember obligations as responsible citizens.”

It was not the first time in his trip to the United States that the Argentinian-born pope called out for immigrants to be welcomed. On his first stop, the White House, the 78-year-old pontiff said it was a pleasure to be in a land of immigrants, and pointed out to President Barack Obama and others present that somehow everybody is either an immigrant, or descendant of immigrants. He said, “As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”

Likewise, among the millions of immigrants looking to the pope to encourage an immigration reform, 5-year-old Sophie Cruz managed herself to jump the barricade in Washington to give a letter to the pontiff asking him to talk to President Obama on her behalf because her father was set to be deported, according to CBS News.

Before Congress, where there is a strong opposition to immigration reform, the pope addressed lawmakers to remind them that they were elected to protect against social injustices.

“We must not be taken back by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best as we can to their situation,” he said of immigrants.

At the United Nations, Francis focused on climate change, but said that he believed the institution was the place to overcome social injustice and incorporate the underprivileged. He said that politicians “shouldn’t turn their back on our neighbors,” and that immigrants should be treated in a “humane, just and fraternal way.”

Photo: Pope Francis arrives in Washington on Sept. 22. (WhiteHouse.gov)