Pope Francis Comes to America


Pope Francis speaks to his supporters – Internet Photo

Hannah Lin, Contributing Writer

For the first time in his papacy and his life, Pope Francis visited the United States this past week. The pope toured Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia in his six-day long trip from Sept. 22- Sept. 27, meeting and speaking in front of large groups, including the White House, Congress, and the United Nation.

Pope Francis began in Washington D.C. on Sept. 23 with a welcome ceremony on the White House Lawn and a meeting with President Obama. The pope addressed global warming in his speech more than any other topic. Francis indicated his belief that the earth could change for the better for future generations.

“Mr. President,” Pope Francis said, “I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution.”

“The People’s Pope” then embarked on a motorcade and waved at his followers, stopping especially to kiss children and take selfies while he was driven around Washington.

Later, the pontiff visited St. Matthew’s Cathedral, best known as the location where the funeral of John Kennedy, the only Roman Catholic president, was held. He commended the priests there for defending the rights of migrants. As a son of immigrants himself, the spiritual leader spoke up for them as well.

The next day, Pope Francis addressed Congress, becoming the first pope to do so. The pontiff focused on immigration, poverty, and violence. He spoke about the importance of balancing morals and liberties when responding to brutality.

As he called on Congress to consider helping those affected by poverty, he met with 200 homeless, immigrant, and disabled people at an event sponsored by Catholic Charities. The pope prayed with them, hoping to unite them and speak to them as equals.

Freshman Edward Guo believes the pope is a good example for others.

“He’s super cool, and I really like how he stands for equal rights,” Guo said. “I think Pope Francis should be an example for world leaders to follow.”

The following day saw the pontiff in New York speaking to world leaders at the United Nations. His speech centered around inequality, poverty, human rights, and the environment. Pope Francis pointed out the awareness that had to be raised about underprivileged people in order to have effective systems in the government.

He then stressed the point that taking care of nature was a human duty.

“Any harm done to the environment,” Francis said, “is harm done to humanity.” This was met with some criticism from conservative Catholics, who believed the pope had waded into topics about which he knew very little.

After addressing the UN, the pontiff visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to pay his respects. Francis offered a message of hope to the families of the fallen.

“This place of death became a place of life, too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division,” Francis said.

The pope then journeyed to a school in East Harlem to awaiting students. Our Lady Queen of Angels school, attended by predominantly black and Latino children, fit in with the pope’s mission to raise awareness for immigrants and racially discriminated people.

The pontiff’s concluding event in New York was a mass in Madison Square Garden, where he led over 20,000 people in prayer. He again invoked his widely known mission, speaking for the poor and discriminated.

Junior Emma Liu believes the positions Pope Francis takes are considerable from both views..

“I have mixed feelings about him. His stances are interesting from both sides,” Liu said. “They take into account multiple areas of the social political spectrum.”

The pope arrived at his last American destination, Philadelphia, on Sept. 26, heading first to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in his now famous black Fiat. Francis emphasized the importance of women having a greater role in church matters, saying the future of the church would value the “immense contribution” of women.

After a stop at Independence Hall, where the pope spoke from the same lectern as Abraham Lincoln when delivering the Gettysburg Address, the day ended with a papal parade, leading to the Festival of Families. The pope was serenaded by Aretha Franklin and entertained by other celebrities, including Mark Wahlberg and Colombian singer Juanes.

On the next day, his final day in the United States, the pope met with five victims of clerical sex abuse. The pontiff offered his condolences, promising to hold the priests accountable and telling the victims that “God weeps.”

Pope Francis later visited the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, the largest prison in Philadelphia. Meeting with about 100 inmates and their families, he gave them hope, while reminding Americans to remember prisoners and the vulnerable citizens of the world, stressing the importance of brotherhood.

Finishing out his American tour was a huge mass in Philadelphia, one that attracted more than one million people. In his last speech in the U.S., he stressed the importance of the holiness of “little gestures”. Repeating his mantra that family was an all-important part of daily life, the pope said that the “quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers” were what made each day different.

At the conclusion of the mass, Pope Francis made a request to the large crowd, asking them to pray for him before heading back to the Vatican that night.

World history teacher Mr. Buenning believes that Pope Francis represents human goodness.

“I’m very impressed by his humility, willingness to lead by example, and willingness to care for the welfare of the sick and disabled,” Buenning said. “He is a man who exudes genuine passion. He is somebody who you rarely see at the head of a large multinational organization. It’s been a recognized cultural institution for so long.”