To say that the past six days were stunning suffers from understatement. It will take time for all of us to reflect upon the Holy Father’s many talks, and perhaps even longer to assess what impact his words will have on the Church and the culture. But, by way of a wrap-up, here are some of the key quotes from this wonderful week, and why I think they speak to the essence of Pope Francis’ ministry, reflecting conscious choices about how to address certain issues.
Pope Francis may have been preaching to the hundreds of thousands filling the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, but his words were directed to the participants in the upcoming synod, which begins next weekend.
More important than the words, although the words were beautiful, what most strikes me today about the Holy Father's meeting with prisoners in Philadelphia was the look of compassion and genuine interest on his face as he walked along the rows on inmates, bending down to shake their hands. He was engaged. These are his people. I could not help but compare the look on his face today with the more somber, formal, dare one say uninterested facial expression the pope could scarcely conceal as he was introduced to the fat cats of Wall Street last Thursday night at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
My colleague Joshua McElwee has posted a report on the Holy Father's meeting with the victims of clergy sex abuse and his subsequent remarks at the meeting with bishops gathered for the World Meeting of Families.
The defense of traditional marriage in the past few years has created a nomenclature and ideological focus all its own: Same sex marriage is a “civilization threat,” we have been told, the divorced and remarried are living in adultery, there are two cultures of marriage, one for the upper middle class, where marriage is thriving, and one for the poor and working poor where it is abysmal, with the strong implication that if those poor people just lived better moral lives (like us!), they would not be poor as well.
I admit that I was deeply worried about how this afternoon’s event at Independence Hall would turn out. The U.S. bishops have mounted a religious liberty campaign that was rooted in a fundamental problem, being tied to an excessive, at times almost paranoid, understanding of what constitutes illicit material cooperation with evil. Additionally, their campaign was so poorly framed and conducted, that they allowed one of America’s great political achievements, a source of common, shared American pride, and allowed it to become a partisan issue.
On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and uttered the most memorable line of his entire presidency: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” This morning, at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pope Francis began his homily with a similar sentiment. He said:
At Madison Square Garden, the Holy Father gave a two paragraph spiritual analysis of life in a modern city. This son of Buenos Aires showed he was paying attention all those years:
The Holy Father’s presence and remarks at the Inter-Religious service at Ground Zero in Manhattan do not need much commentary. The service was both complicated and simple, the diverse religious voices and colorful vestiture of the clergy speaking to the complexity of American religious experience, the prayers all striking a common theme: God calls humans to act humanely and He comforts those who are afflicted when some humans fail that simple measure of decency.
Pope Francis, after he finished the encomiums to the UN, jumped right into one of the international system’s most egregious injustices, the role that international financial organizations, such as the IMF, play in facilitating a rigged financial system that exploits the poor: