Fr. Guillermo Campuzano, CM offers this report on the first two days of Pope Francis’ visit “From the Ends of the World To the Heart of the United States and the United Nations”. Father is our CM representative at the UN.
First Day: fearlessly embrace immigrants
After the reception at the White House and a private meeting with President Barak Obama, Pope Francis met with more than four hundred fifty bishops in Saint Matthew’s Cathedral. Before arriving at the cathedral thousands of people shouted from behind fences as the popemobile passed in front of them and as the Pope stretched out his arms to bless and to greet them.
I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated. Those words were spoken to his brother bishops in the United States, the second largest conferences of bishops after that of Brazil.
The Pope encouraged the Bishops to care for their priests and to embrace and welcome immigrants. He stated that his words concerning immigrants were more personal and that he was speaking to them not only as the Bishop of Rome but also as a pastor from the South.
The Pope celebrated the Eucharist with some thirty-five thousand people and during that celebration he canonized a Spanish Franciscan priest, Junipero Serra.
It is wonderful to witness the overflowing enthusiasm that the Pope is causing as he travels about the United States. The primary means of communication are transmitting every detail of this trip and are also attempting to explain the significance of his presence in this country at this precise moment in its history.
As the Pope travels in his small car, he gives witness to his own simple lifestyle. Indeed, the simplicity and the prophetic nature of his gestures are refreshing not only for Catholics but also for believers of other religions as well as for those who would view themselves as pure secularists. Yet both groups of people view him as a true prophet who comes among us at a time when humanity is lacking a point of reference, lacking voices that remind them of that which is essential and lacking leaders who are able to see the unseen and say the unsayable. This prophet, following the best prophetic tradition, has enabled people to hope.
His words and gestures are not exempt from controversy or even criticism. Yet the Pope continues to travel calmly, armed with a visible spirituality that becomes very evident when he pauses to pray in silence before that which is mystery and when he invites all of us to engage in some form of contemplation.
Second day: I have a dream, Dr. Martin Luther King
Referring to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, the Pope recalled some of the values that took root in society and that gave an identity to the nation. He spoke about freedom which excluded no one, social justice and the dignity of the person and of human life, politics as a form of collaboration in the midst of a world of extremisms, the risks of religious fundamentalism, the challenges in overcoming poverty and violence, climate change, immigration, the sins of capitalism, the vulnerability of the family and young people, the possibilities of contemplation … Francis made reference to a long list of critical themes as he addressed a joint session of Congress. This was the first time that a Pope addressed Congress and it should be noted that at this time 33% of its members are Catholic [it should also be noted that in the United States there are some 70 million Catholics, the largest Christian group in that country].
From the balcony of the Capital the Pope greeted thousands of people who had gathered outside that building. Then he had lunch with the poor at one of the sites administered by Catholic Charities (again he continues to surprise us with his spontaneity).
For us, members of the Vincentian Family, this Pope continually reminds us of our vocation: our calling to stand beside those men and women who live on the geographical and the existential peripheries of our history and society. He tells us that we should be fearless in engaging in a dialogue with regard to the pressing issues of our time. Dialogue with the modern world is not an easy task and for us it is a challenge, one that we ought to embrace with our hearts and our minds because such dialogue will always lead us more deeply into the drama of humankind which will present us anew with concrete historical faces.
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM