(Updated throughout the week.)
Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States this week, following his trip to Cuba. He’ll be meeting with President Barack Obama, addressing Congress and the United Nations and saying Mass at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He’ll also visit with prisoners, immigrants and Catholic school children.
CRCC Editor Megan Sweas, a journalist who has covered the Catholic Church, gave an overview of the trip and talked about its significance on KPCC’s Take Two. Her interview is at about 8:15 in the full episode.
You can read three pieces she wrote as well:
- Healing the divide between Pope Francis and Sisters
- Young adult Catholics are in decline, but also are Pope Francis’ biggest fans
- Is Pope Francis’ concern for immigrants more than a ‘numbers game’?
University Fellow Joseph Palacios, a priest and sociologist who studies the Catholic Church, is attending the White House reception for Pope Francis as well as his address to Congress. Here are his thoughts after Day 1:
“President Barack Obama set the tone for the Pope Francis’s five-day visit to the United States by gathering a wide diversity of U.S. Catholics to be part of the festivities. It has been many years since progressive and conservative Catholics, especially the activists, have gathered together to listen to their chief pastor, had his words resonate with them and celebrated being American Catholics. And it took a U.S. President to provide the space to have this happen. In many ways Catholic progressives felt empowered by Pope Francis to again claim their voice for social justice in the Church, while Catholic conservatives saw that their concerns for human life continue to be upheld.
“Both Pope Francis and President Obama found common ground to discuss climate change, immigration, religious liberty, human rights and protections for the marginalized, and U.S.-Cuban relations in the context of Catholic social justice principles. In the next few days we will see how these themes get played out in the Pope’s address to the Joint Session of Congress, his talk at the United Nations, and other public events.
“More tomorrow… It was very exciting to be present!”
After the Congressional Address, Joe shared his experience with KPCC’s Take Two. Listen here (first interview in the program).
Here’s the day 2 reflection he shared with us:
The U.S. Capitol grounds opened at 5:00 am today and became slowly filled with 50,000 invitees from congressional districts from throughout the country. I found my place and had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Catholics from Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, Florida, DC and California. Their excitement at being able to hear Pope Francis address the Joint Session of Congress was similar to the energy I experienced in a similar spot I had for President Obama’s first inauguration ceremony. And the common word expressed at both events was HOPE.
Prior to Pope Francis’ speech I knew that he would cover his key themes of climate change, immigration and the refugee crisis, the poor and marginalized, economic inequality, family life, and international relations and the arms race. But I could have never imagined his ingenious use of four very different Americans who have contributed to the social and spiritual well being of Americans as the starting points for his themes to bring in all his themes. And the greater surprise was the way he used these four American saints to craft a public homily on the vocation of the public servant in the context of U.S. political history.
The speech was simple and direct–particularly his defense of migrants, his denunciation of the death penalty and his analysis of the arms race as all about money–but it was also rather complex and dense. It could be used for an ongoing meditation, or I dare say, spiritual reading for public figures. Each of the four American saints contributed to an open and inclusive inter-religious civil religion that has nurtured many Catholics, Jews and Protestants. With this speech my hope is that Pope Francis will reignite the values and principles that inspired the great spiritual renewals that have shaped the best of American values and principles.
The Washington Times quoted Director of Research Richard Flory about the impact of Pope Francis on the U.S. church:
“Younger American Catholics who are still involved in the church are likely to be motivated — and view positively — the changes being advocated by Pope Francis,” said Richard Flory, director of research for the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.
“However, it is unlikely that his influence will either stem the tide of younger Catholics who are leaving the church or motivate those who have already left the church to return,” he added.
On Friday, Contributing Fellow Peter Gudaitis will participate in a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center.
Finally, all three were interviewed for a follow-up piece on Pope Francis’ visit for Neon Tommy.
Media: To get in touch with any of these sources, please contact CRCC.
Photo Credit: Edgar Jiménez / Flickr