Pope Francis transcends politics to embrace diversity

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/09/21/pope-francis-transcends-politics-to-embrace-diversity-2/

With Pope Francis headed to Washington Tuesday for his first visit to the U.S., politicians and media commentators from all sides have tried to predict what the Catholic leader will say or do.

But despite the tendency of American media to label the pope’s view as either liberal of conservative, the Pope arrives in the U.S. not as a political or diplomatic leader, but as a spiritual and moral one.

During his week-long visit to the U.S., which includes stops in Philadelphia and New York, Pope Francis will visit both with President Barack Obama and speak in an unprecedented appearance before a joint gathering of Congress.  He is also expected to mingle with the crowds and make public appearances.

Pope Francis has become known for both his compassion towards refugees and immigrants and for his call to all human beings to treat God’s creation with care. Less widely reported are Pope Francis’s comments on gay marriage, which the church opposes, and gender-reassignment surgery, which Pope Francis has said “does not recognize the order of Creation.”

During his U.S. visit, most of Pope Francis’s speeches will be delivered in Spanish, although that is less of a symbolic move and more of a practical one for the native of Argentina.

Typical for this humble man, Pope Francis will be carted around the country in a Jeep Wrangler, not the specially built “Popemobile” often seen in papal appearances.

Pope Francis’s humble and capricious nature has added to his popularity. A Gallup Poll survey earlier this year showed Pope Francis still riding high with a 59 percent favorability rating among Americans, both Catholics and non-Catholics. His popularity, which had surged to 76 percent in 2014, suffered mostly among conservatives and Catholics.

Pope Francis visits at a key time when the Catholic demographic in the U.S. is notably shifting. The Pew Research Forum found in May that racial and ethnic minorities make up 41 percent of the nation’s estimated 51 million Catholics.

Ken Hackett, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, told Scott Pelley on the CBS show “60 Minutes” that the Pope will discuss the things “he cares very much about.”

“Poverty, people being excluded, falling through the cracks, people who are suffering because of economic situations. He’ll talk about persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East,” Hackett said. “I mean, it is, these days, very tangible and palpable as we see the migrants coming in, how they’re suffering.”

Hackett added that with a completed encyclical on climate change, Francis will likely comment on that issue as well during his visit.

As he transcends politics, Pope Francis still has both political parties hoping for statements on key issues, such as abortion or climate change.

Either way, Francis is sure to be full of surprises.