8 Things About Pope Francis’ Upcoming Visit That Would Make Him Facepalm | Sojourners

8 Things About Pope Francis’ Upcoming Visit That Would Make Him Facepalm

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Look, we all know it — Pope Francis is a pretty unflappable guy. Anyone who earned a diploma in chemical technology, worked as a nightclub bouncer, and then emerged blinking into the sunlight as the world’s foremost religious leader only to politely ask the world to “pray for me” has got to be cool. (Seriously cool. In January he held an outdoor mass during a typhoon.)

But one thing Pope Francis won’t suffer is treating God’s commandments lightly. He is deeply serious about religion — its immense power to heal, shelter, and reconcile; and its limitless power, if abused, to degrade, divide, and injure.

So we’re willing to bet he’s got mixed feelings about coming to the U.S. in September. His visit will take him from a school in Harlem and interfaith services near the site of the September 11 attacks, to visiting Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., and a prison in Philadelphia — a trip with, as TIME writes, a “liturgy” of a schedule.

Naturally, we in the U.S. have gone all out to show just how excited we are for his visit. But that’s where things are getting a little screwy.

Here are eight things happening right now in the lead up to the papal visit that we’re betting would make #FrancisFacepalm:

1. Ticket Scams

What says “celebration of the world’s leading advocate for the poor and the elderly” quite like bamboozling senior citizens with offers of fake tickets to see the pope? Reports are popping up of ticket scammers approaching Catholics with once-in-a-lifetime offers to see the pontiff in New York City or Philadelphia — for a steep price, of course.

Hmmm. Deception … swindling the elderly … we’re pretty sure Francis has some feelings on that.

2. Money, Money, Money

The logistical preparation for the pope’s two-day stop in Philadelphia alone is ringing up at an estimated $48 million. Some are expressing displeasure at the enormous budget for a short visit in a city in which one-in-four people at any given time face hunger, and many food and housing shelters struggle to meet the needs of their clients. 

Advocates have urged the pope to vocally advocate for the hungry and homeless — a focus of his papacy — while in the United States. But “in the end you wish that [$48 million] could be channeled to charity, to a non-profit doing real work,” a representative from a Philadelphia housing shelter says. Preach.

3. Keep a Safe Distance, Please 

The pope is famously fond of mingling with crowds. This has security teams nervous — so much so that the New York Police Department, Security Service, and Vatican Security are all teaming up to try to contain the pope’s love for wandering off route.

“I’m loading up on the Excedrin already for that visit. No, it is literally changing day-to-day in terms of what he would like to do,” complained NYPD police Commissioner William Bratton.

Pope Francis, who holds intentional, face-to-face contact as critical to the mission of the church, might not be so ready to play along.

“What could be significant places of encounter and solidarity often become places of isolation and mutual distrust,” he writes in his 2013 Evangelii Gaudium. “Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others.” 

Pope: 1. NYPD: 0.

4. Shutting Out LGBT Brothers and Sisters

A coalition of LGBT groups planning to attend Philadelphia’s World Meeting of Families will no longer be able to use space in a Catholic church for lodging and workshops. Initially promised to them for use by the local church, organizers were recently told that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia rejected the gender identity program the groups had planned to host.  

Pope Francis has made significant strides towards reconciliation with LGBT Catholics, and something tells usthis is not his definition of hospitality. #FrancisFacepalm

5. Congressional Indulgences (kind of)

Members of Congress each hold one extra ticket for one of the hottest events in memory — Pope Francis’ address to both chambers of Congress — but only one. So who gets it?

The Associated Press reports some members facing a “nearly Solomonic choice straight out of the Old Testament” with lawmakers having to decide between spouses or siblings, family members or friends.

“I’m a very popular fellow these days because of that one ticket I get,” Republican Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., said.

As long as he doesn’t also promise forgiveness of sins.

6. All is Vanity, Part 1: Inspirational Jewelry

“Christian Bling supports the mission of #WMF2015 by creating inspirational jewelry that will touch the hearts of their loved ones,” tweets Christian Bling, one of the vendors hoping to make profit at the upcoming World Meeting of Families. Bling and others have been jumping on the #WMF2015 hashtag in an attempt to tie their products to the pope’s hotly anticipated visit.

Christian Bling is ready for the week, with a Papal Signature Collection of “couture rosaries,” “pick-a-saint” jewelry, and a Pope Francis notebook.

“It's cool to be Christian. Display it in a trendy and super attractive way,” says their handle.

“This is vanity: it is living for appearances, living to be seen,” says the pope.

7. All is Vanity, Part 2: Cufflinks

Another fun item being sold: cufflinks with a Photoshopped image of the pope “visiting” a local cheesesteak joint in Philadelphia, are going for $25.

Dunno, it’ll be kind of hard for the pope to wear cufflinks since all he chooses to wear are simple garments, #justsayin. (Though it’s not out of the question that he’ll visit the diner.)

8. Plummeting Popularity … For Caring About the World

On the eve of his visit, the pope’s approval numbers have taken a steep dive — in part, for talking too much about social justice. Not kidding.

“This decline may be attributable to the pope’s denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and attributing climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality,” said one Gallup poll analyst.

And a popular Catholic blogger offered her reasons for the dropping approval:

“I love His Holiness Pope Francis, but for a while now, I have been feeling harangued by him … to practice mercy on the world; to welcome the stranger, to clean up the rivers, to bring about justice and peace in our time; to level the playing fields, visit the sick, and so on. …[I’m] frankly just tired of feeling scolded.”

Welcome to the U.S., Papa Francesco! And thanks for having mercy and love for us all.