Pope Francis: Coming to America ‘Soon’
[March 24, 2014]
Later this week on Thursday March 27, the President meets the Pope at the Vatican. This is part of packed day in the Eternal City for the President, and includes meetings with Italy’s President, 88-year old Giorgio Napolitano, formerly a leading member of the defunct (Deo gratias) Italian communist party, the oldest-ever incumbent in Italy’s presidency; and with Italy’s newly installed premier, Matteo Renzi, the 39-year old mayor of Florence, the youngest-ever in that office.
It is widely anticipated that the Pope will be invited by the President to pay a visit to the U.S. in his capacity of head of state, in the fall of 2015.
This would dovetail with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, set for September 22 through 27 of next year. And if the diplomats have done their work, the invitation will be accepted on this, the 30th anniversary of the year when full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the United States were established, in 1984 during the Reagan Presidency.
As an educated guess, besides a day or so in Philly the papal trip in the fall of 2015 will also involve:
Francis’ reciprocal visit to the Oval; and
A papal address to the U.N. General Assembly when it convenes in late September of 2015.
The Pope’s sojourn in Philly involves some challenges, given the disarray within that archdiocese:
- The continuing series of front-page trials involving allegations of clergy sex abuse in the diocese;
- Acute financial distress within the diocese, including the closing of some 50 Catholics schools in recent years. the dismantling of chancery functions; and
- An ongoing round of ‘pastoral planning’ which is scaling back drastically the Catholic presence throughout Greater Philadelphia, including some severely distressed parts of the city such as the Lower Northeast area.
Moreover, the Families event is likely to raise vexing doctrinal issues such as Communion for divorced Catholics, gay marriage, in vitro fertilization and contraception; to mention just a few. This would take the focus off the broader papal message of inclusiveness, and outreach to society’s marginalized. Perhaps the Pope will find it opportune to visit parishes or churches nelle periferie, if there will be any left in 18 months.
The Washington leg of the papal trip raises some interesting possibilities:
The other branches of government (if that is the correct way of referring to our betters in the District of Columbia) include:
The Supreme Court, with six Catholics on the bench, out of nine justices; the other three justices are of the Old Testament persuasion, no Protestants need apply at the moment; and
The Congress, with a Catholic Speaker and a Catholic Minority Leader in the House of Reps, at present.
Perhaps a papal address to Congress would be in order, something unprecedented in U.S.-Vatican relations. The format might even be a ‘Joint Meeting’, an honor limited to a few of the highest. Among the foreign leaders to receive this privilege:
Winston Churchill, Corazon Aquino, Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa, among others
Also to be kept in mind:
By September, 2015, the 2016 presidential hats will be in the ring. No shortage of Catholic wannabes, on both sides of the political aisle…Dems: Joe Biden and Andrew Cuomo; GOP: Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich…to name a few.
Finally, just yesterday Cardinal Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, reiterated his invitation for a papal visit to Boston, commenting in The Boston Herald, “We’ll see what happens.”
Sidebar alert to Major League Baseball:
In late September of 2015 there might be a scheduling dilemma involving the availability of Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium for large gatherings.
Well, maybe a problem for only one of these two venues, the northerly one, Deo volente.