Updated at 9:40 p.m. ET

Pope Francis, in a speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, spoke of the need to preserve religious freedom throughout the world and warned against the use of religion "as a pretext for hatred and brutality."

"In this place which is symbolic of the American way, I would like to reflect with you on the right to religious freedom," he said. "It is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own."

Papist / Flickr/CC

Since his selection, there’s been intense interest in Pope Francis’s leadership, among Catholics and non-Catholics.  And that interest is growing, as he now heads to the U.S. with a packed schedule that includes an unprecedented Congressional address….and a tendency to tackle politically charged issues, from capitalism to climate change.  


Christus Vincit / Flickr Creative Commons

Pope Benedict the 16th stunned the Catholic world in February by announcing his retirement: the first papal resignation in 700 years. And since the election of Pope Francis in March, the surprises have only continued: he’s the first Latin American pope, the first Jesuit, the first pope from the southern hemisphere.

Jonathan Lynch / NHPR

Catholics held a special mass in Manchester Wednesday night to celebrate the selection of the new pope.

Parishioners gathered on short notice at St. Joseph’s Cathedral Wednesday night to commemorate the anointing of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I.

Bishop Peter Labasci was on hand to lead the mass. He asked those in attendance to welcome the new pope and to pray for his success in leading the church.

Labasci said the selection of the Argentine came as a surprise to him:

AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, file

The Diocese of Manchester will hold a special mass at 6 this evening to celebrate the election of a new pope.

Bishop Peter Libasci will lead the mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Manchester.

Diocese Spokesman Kevin Donovan says the announcement of a new pope comes very early, compared to previous elections.

“The earliest that a pope has been elected in 100s of years was on the first day, and this is the second day, so still fairly early, which means there was consensus early on among the electors, the cardinals, electing the pope.”

Catholic cardinals from around the world are meeting now, as the process of choosing a new leader gets underway at a time of tremendous upheaval for their church. We’ll find out what religious leaders and others in the Granite state are saying about this and what they think it means for the future.