Most of us Protestants, perhaps, have not paid a lot of attention to what the Pope has said and done through the years. But things have changed somewhat since Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope in February 2013.
Choosing Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis has often been a topic of conversation, even for those who are not Christians as well as for Protestants.
The Pope is especially much in the news now because of his visit to Cuba, which began yesterday, and to the United States, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, the 22nd.
President Obama is scheduled to welcome the Pope in a ceremony at the White House at 9:15 on Wednesday morning. That will be followed by a parade along 15th Street, Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, NW.
People wishing to see the pontiff were invited to line the streets around the Ellipse and the National Mall as he rides by in the Popemobile.
That parade, scheduled to begin around 11:00 a.m., is free and open to the public on a first-come first-serve basis. However, spectators have to pass through security, with gates opening for the Ellipse and the National Mall at 4:00 a.m. and closing at 10:00 a.m.
It seems remarkable to me that people would begin lining up at 4 a.m. for a parade that wasn’t scheduled to start until seven hours later.
On Thursday morning the Pope is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress, which will be broadcast live. Three previous popes have come to the U.S., the first being Paul VI in 1965. This will be the first time, though, for a Pope to address Congress.
It will be interesting to hear what Pope Francis has to say there—and to how the members of Congress will respond. If he talks about matters related to anti-abortion and/or homosexuality issues, that would put him at odds with many Democrats.
On the other hand, if he talks about global warming, income equality and the problems of capitalism, and the immigration issue, which is more likely, he will spur strong disagreement from many Republicans.
At the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis was very highly regarded around the world. Even by February 2014, Gallup found that 76% of the people in the U.S. still had a favorable opinion of him.
By July of this year, though, that rating had fallen to 59%—and among conservatives there was only 45% approval. By comparison, in April 2008 Pope Benedict XVI had an approval rating of 63%, and for his 27 years as Pope, popular John Paul II had an average approval rating of 72%.
Francis’ popularity decline is partially due to what he has said about climate change, economics, and immigration.
It used to be that there was considerable opposition/criticism of the Pope, especially by Protestants, because of his religious beliefs. And certainly there are many things Pope Francis believes/teaches about Christianity that I don’t agree with.
Now most opposition to or criticism of the Pope is because of his stance on social and economic issues. And I agree with him on most of those matters—mainly because I think they are in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.Pope Francis has said, “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.” And he has repeatedly called for solidarity with the poor.
Congresspeople, and all of us, need to listen well to what the Pope says.