The flag, now flown at half mast on the masthead of the church after Pope Francis removed the star and stripes in September, is symbolic of the Catholic faith and the pontiff’s appeal for unity.
“It’s not about me or your religion, and I’m sure there is no conflict between them,” Francis told a group of parishioners.
“But I would say to everyone here tonight: there is no difference between an open and a closed heart… Let them think of me (as a Catholic) if they are not happy with me.”
Francis addressed the gathered faithful and also the young and old at St. Peter’s on Thursday, asking them to join together in praying for justice and peace.
“A person can become a saint, a martyr, and if he or she believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, there are more than enough opportunities to fulfill this role,” he said.
The flag is flying in the basilica with the words: “Let us continue to love one another… on the cross and in humility.”