Pope Francis embarked on his first trip to the United States as Pope, starting in Washington D.C. Over the six-day trip, he will also visit New York and Pennsylvania to speak of his beliefs and hopes for the future.
As the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the Pope has a large responsibility to citizens all over the world. Since earning his title, Pope Francis has made it a priority to visit many countries to speak to citizens, bishops and political leaders in order to form a more welcome and open church and world.
One his first day in Washington D.C., the Pope gave various speeches to both politicians and members of the church.
Pope Francis spoke at the cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle to 300 bishops from around the world, speaking “quietly but forcefully” as explained by the New York Times.
He was clear in addressing the bishops for their courage in standing up against the ever present sex-offender allegations and spoke confidently about the controversial topics politicians have tip-toed around.
“I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the church in this country without the self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice,” Pope Francis told the bishops.
He spoke, urging the bishops not to remain silent toward the “innocent victims of abortion,” which was only one of the highly charged issues on his list.
Pope Francis spoke to the bishops of the worldly problems so many are avoiding.
In his speech, the Pope discussed various topics including children dying of hunger and bombings; immigrants who “drown in the search for a better tomorrow;” the elderly and sick; victims of terror, war, drug trafficking; and the environment, which he described as “devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature.”
The Pope spoke to the American government and citizens, starting with a message praising the country’s devotion to freedom of liberty and religion. However, he also said that the nation’s vast resources demanded a deep sense of moral responsibility.
President Obama welcomed the spiritual leader with trumpets and a show of solidarity, escorting him onto a red-carpeted stage at South Portico of the White House. Obama praised him for his moral authority that “comes not just through words, but also through deeds.”
The Pope spoke at the White House, urging renewed emphasis on tackling global poverty, confronting climate change, caring for migrants, and providing a welcoming church that is pastoral rather than doctrinaire.
Pope Francis ensured the American people that he is with them and supports them.
“Know that the Pope is by your side, the Pope supports you. He also puts his hand on yours, a hand wrinkled by age but God’s grave still able to support and encourage,” the Pope says.
He arrived at the White House in a Fiat and later drove slowly in his open-air pope-mobile past a crowd of 11,000 people assembled behind metal barriers on the ellipse, juggling small flags and cell phones, craning for a glance of the Pope.
Before leaving Washington D.C., Pope Francis became the first Pope to address Congress.
“The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of United States,” the Pope said in his speech, “The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.”
The Pope encouraged lawmakers to work together to solve the problems of ordinary Americans and to show compassion for people across the globe suffering from war and hunger.
He also touched on some of the biggest political controversies of our society. Pope Francis spoke of the immigration crisis in Europe, death penalty, abortion, trade, poverty and religious extremism.
When addressing Congress, he encouraged them to seek “effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions.”
“I think the Pope is an all around great guy because he is very open and has great views for the future of not only the church, but the world,” says sophomore Dana Steinberg.
After Congress, the Pope flew to New York where he was met at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by a congregation of over 2,500.
In his homily, Pope Francis avoided political issues and instead spoke of spiritual issues.
Beginning his homily with something not prepared in text, the Pope started by expressing sympathy to “our Muslim brothers and sisters…in the face of the tragedy they have suffered in Mecca,” speaking of the over 700 deaths in a stampede.
Pope Francis spoke of “gratitude and hard work,” which he calls “pillars of the spiritual life.”
He also took time to acknowledge the women involved in the church.
“My special thanks to women religious of the United States. What would we do without you?” asks the Pope.
Pope Francis addressed the nuns as “women of strength,” calling them “fighters” against poverty and for social justice.
“I love you very much,” the Pope told the nuns.
The Pope also cited the nuns’ role in “evolving the pastoral landscape,” which alludes to either the church’s worsening priest shortage or a growing leadership role he envisions for women.
“I really love how Pope Francis is including and acknowledging women in the church,” says sophomore Julianna Palmer.
On Friday, September 25, the Pope visited the United Nations and addressed the General Assembly.
Following his visit to the UN, Pope Francis made a visit to the September 11 memorial and museum.
Pope Francis also stopped at Our Queen of Angels School in East Harlem.
Closing up his New York visit, the Pope will gave Mass at Madison Square Garden before departing for Philadelphia on Saturday.
How do you feel about the Pope’s visit?