Pope’s First u.s. message is pastoral and political


At White House, Francis Address Poverty, Climate Change and Immigration

welcomed with a fanfare of trumpets and a chorus of amens, Pope Francis introduced himself to the United States on Wednesday with a bracing message on Climate change, immigration and poverty that ranged from the pastoral to the political. On a day that blended the splendor of an ancient church with the frenzy of a modern rock star tour, Francis waded quietly but forcefully into some of the most polarizing issues of American civil life. Along the way, he underscored just how much he upended the agenda od the Roman Catholic Church and reordered its priorities. perhaps no one was more pleased than president Obama, who greeted him with an elaborate arrival ceremony at the White House, where the pope explicitly embraced the administration’s efforts to combat climate change. At a later speech to American bishops, Francis, the first pope from Latin America, pressed for openness to immigrant, marking a singal day for Hispanics in the United States. While the last two popes focused on traditional moral issues like abortion and homosexuality, Francis left those to the side in Mr’s Obama’s presence. With the bishops, he spoke about the “innocent victim of abortion” but mentioned the issue as only one of a long list of concerns, including children who die of hunger or in bombing, immigrants who “drown in the search for a better tomorrow” and  an environment devasted by man’s predatory relationship with nature.

The pope told a crowd of thousands on the South Lawn of the White House in his first major speech in English. Still, in a low-key but evident break with Mr. Obama, Francis at the end of the day made a previously unannounced stop to see the nun. Wearing his white cassock and skullcap, Francis was greeted everywhere he went by joyful crowds. Catholics and non-Catholics alike juggled small flags of the  Holy See with their cellphone as they craned for a glimps of the 266th pope.

The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholic led a short parade around the Elipse in his open-air pope mobile, waving and making the sign of the cross as Vatican officials brought him babies to kiss. He later celebrated Mass for more than 20,000 people and presided over the first canonization in the United States. In his first visit to the United States, Francis, 78, seemed eager to pass over his previous criticisms  of a materialistic, capitalist culture and instead reach out to the world’s most powerful nation. He praised the country’s devotion to freedom of liberty and religion even as he cautioned that its vast resources demanded a deep sense of moral responsibility. The pope arrived at the White House in a modest Fiat to find a crowd of 11,000 people, including Vice President. The White House rolled out its best color guards, including a fife-and-drum corps, but opted against the 21-gun salute that is traditional for such ceremonies.

Mr. Obama thanked the pope for his help in restoring diplomatic relationship with Cuba and hailed him for speaking out for the world’s most impoverished. In his own remark, the pope noted the country’s origins at a time when critics of illegal immigration were pushing to build a wall at the southern border. He devoted more of his address to climate change than any other topic. The ceremony brought together two men with starkly disparate background and yet commonalities that have unite them now, a community organizer from Chicago and a priest from Argentina, both presenting themselves as champions of those without any. While they first met last year at the Vatican, their appearance together on Wednesday carried a visual and possibly a political power that solidified the impression of a secular-theological alliance. 

Republican, who have said they disagree with the pope on climate change and capitalism, nonetheless largely kept such thoughts to themselves and instead focused on the majesty of the day. Former Gov. Jeb bush of Florida, a republican presidential candidate who converted to Catholicism, attended the afternoon Mass with the pope and posted a picture on Twitter.

After meeting alone with the president and an interpreter in the Oval Office, the pope went to the cathedral of st. Matthew the Apostle, where the crowd swelled so deep that for many the only sign of the pope’s arrival was a cheer echoing through nearby streets. A crowd of more than 50 people inside a restaurant pressed against the windows facing the cathedral and stood eagerly on chairs to get a better view. As the pope entered the cathedral, the rector, Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, who greeted him at the door, threw his arms open wide. As he walked down the church’s center aisle between rows of bishops in pink zucchettos, some of them held up phones and cameras to take pictures. Addressing nearly 300 bishops, whom he referred to as his brothers, the pope was warm and encouraging, but he also spoke clearly with simple language that was unmistakable in its emphasis. He praised the bishops their “courage” in handling the church’s sexual abuse scandals. Francis also pressed his case for particular attention to immigrants and refugees as a primary responsibility of the church. Latinos who flocked to see the pontiff said they were not surprised that he would highlight of critical importance to a community with increasing influence in American politics.


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