pope francis

Hundreds Shut Out of Sole Session on Gays at World Meeting of Families

Madi Alexander / RNS

At the World Meeting of Families, Ron Belgau, center, and his mother Beverley Belgau, right, described to a packed room what it was like for them dealing with Ron’s same-sex attraction. Photo by Madi Alexander / RNS

Just as the single session on homosexuality at this Vatican-approved meeting of Catholic families was to begin on Sept. 24, a conference official took the stage in the main hall, capable of seating at least 10,000, and announced the location had been moved.

Thousands of people got up and made their way up one floor to another room capable of seating only about 1,000. Hundreds of others were turned away, the doors shut on them by convention center officials citing fire code regulations.

What Pope Francis Can Teach the U.S. Catholic Church about Thomas Merton

Jim Forest / Flickr / RNS

Thomas Merton portrait by John Howard Griffin. Photo via Jim Forest / Flickr / RNS

At his speech before Congress on Sept. 24, Pope Francis listed Trappist monk Thomas Merton as one of four exemplary Americans who provide wisdom for us today.

Out on the National Mall, thousands cheered when the pope named two other exemplary Americans: Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Fewer recognized Merton (or the fourth exemplar the pope mentioned, social activist Dorothy Day.)

The pope did not choose to hail anyone associated with the institutional Catholic Church as his models. Instead he chose a former president, a Protestant minister, a lay Catholic, and a monk.

Pope Francis Embraces Washington’s Hungry: ‘No Justification for Homelessness’


Pope Francis visits with homeless who are served meals by Catholic charities, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Pool / RNS

Pope Francis went straight from charging the U.S. Congress to care for the neediest to blessing and encouraging Washington’s hungry and homeless on Sept. 24.

Still, Francis, wearing his cross showing a shepherd and his flock, carried a political message along with his pastoral mission.

“The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person,” he told staff and clients of Catholic Charities, at St. Patrick’s in the City’s ministry to the needy.

In U.S., Pope's Actions, As Usual, Tell a Richer Story

Image via Joe Reblando/WUSA9/Facebook

And then Wednesday night, at the end of a marathon day in the nation’s capital, after canonizing St. Junipero Serra at the National Basilica, the pope made an unscheduled, last-minute stop to visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order dedicated to caring for the elderly. (The sisters gained notoriety for their lawsuit against the federal government over Obamacare’s contraception mandate, but reportedly the pope made no mention of it when he stopped by the Washington convent.) 

“It’s his actions that give credibility to what he says,” Sister Mary Richard, a nun from Queens Village, N.Y., who met “Papa Francesco” during the surprise visit, told me Thursday morning as we both waited at Union Station to board an Amtrak train bound for New York City. 

She continued, 

“He was exhausted but he came. He took the time to come. We take care of the elderly and he said, ‘Thank you. People just throw them away or get rid of them.’ 

“When he arrived the Mother Superior went out to greet him and she said, ‘Holy Father you must be so tired.’ And he said, ‘Priests and bishops get tired, but you don’t count the cost. But nuns, they never complain.’ “It’s his attitude, ya know?” 

Sojourners, NextGen Climate Welcome Pope Francis and His Message on Climate Change in New York Times Ad

To mark Pope Francis' visit to the United States, Sojourners has partnered with NextGen Climate to convene key interfaith leaders and activists to welcome the Pope and his call to action on climate change. The effort, including a full-page advertisement Friday in the New York Times and several other newspapers, features a letter signed by 36 interfaith leaders and activists including Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder of Sojourners. 

#PopeinDC: This Evangelical’s Zacchaeus Moment

Image via Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners

Evangelicals don’t have a pope, or even a single spokesperson. We’re not a single denomination like the Catholic Church, so we lack a comparable hierarchical structure. Particular denominations have presidents or general secretaries, but no one human being serves as the representative figure of God on earth within the evangelical faith. Rather, following the teaching of Genesis 1:26-27, evangelicals believe all humanity bears the image of God. In fact, one of the functions of the early evangelical movement was to democratize the faith — to proclaim all humanity’s equal access to God through Jesus.

So, why did my heart shake with anticipation at the thought of being in this pope’s presence? Here’s why: More than any other person, since St. Francis of Assisi (his namesake), this pope has embodied the values and priorities of Jesus. He has shown us what it might have been like to walk the earth with Jesus himself — what it might have been like to watch him embrace the leper, to watch him defend the adulterous woman calling the Pharisees not to judge, to watch Jesus challenge the values and priorities of the religious establishment of his day. He has been a vision to watch.

WATCH: Pope Francis Stops His Motorcade to Bless Daughter of Immigrants

YouTube / Associated Press

Photo via YouTube / Associated Press

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

Pope Francis paraded through Washington D.C., on Sept. 23, and took Jesus’ words literally.

After Francis’ security detachment turned away a young girl who had gotten over the barricade fence to greet him, he quickly called her over for a blessing.

Pope Francis Arrives, Reassures U.S.: 'I'm a Catholic, Not a Communist!'

Image via Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS/RNS

Pope Francis touched down in Washington on Sept. 22 after a historic visit to Cuba, the first Latin American pope in history on his first trip to the U.S. He comes “as a migrant,” as a top papal aide put it, on a six-day visit filled with great expectations for the popular pontiff but also numerous challenges.

Among them are the sharp, even personal criticisms directed at him from American conservatives upset with his thundering pronouncements against economic injustice and climate change, and from conservative Catholics upset that his focus on the poor and marginalized is undercutting the Catholic Church’s focus on battling abortion and gay marriage.

Francis himself addressed those concerns even before he landed, telling reporters aboard the chartered Alitalia jet that everything he has said is in keeping with church teaching and laughing at repeated accusations that he is a communist or radical left-winger:

“I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church,” Francis said, according to Catholic News Service .

“I follow the church and in this I do not think I am wrong.

History Facing History: When Pope and President Meet

Image via /Shutterstock

When President Obama meets with Pope Francis tomorrow, the world will catch a glimpse of what history looks like. The first pope from the global South in 1200 years will be welcomed in the White House by the first African-American president of the United States. This picture will be worth far, far more than a thousand words.

Pundits will analyze each public word spoken, and search for hints about the private words exchanged between these two. The politics of Pope Francis’ interaction with the President, and later with Congress, will fuel incessant speculation from Washington’s insiders. But around the world, and particularly in the global South, it’s the symbol of this meeting which will matter.

Pope Francis represents the changing face of world Christianity. Today, one billion Christians are found in Latin America and Africa. In 1980, more Christians were found in the global South than in the North for the first time in a thousand years. Every day, that movement accelerates. Francis’ words about the world’s injustices, and his actions of humble human solidarity, project the voice and longings of world Christianity’s new majority and resonant far beyond the boundaries of this faith.

President Obama symbolizes the changing demographics of America. Hope and demographics elected him in 2008, and by 2012 the changing face of the electorate in the U.S. proved determinative of America’s political future. Today, a majority of babies born in the U.S. are non-white, and some major urban areas already reflect the coming reality of a society without a racial majority.