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Father Muench Says...

Looking forward to the visit of the pope

Aug. 19, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I am already excited looking forward to Pope Francis’ visit to the United States in September; it will be quite an event.

I have noticed that the pope will be visiting Washington, D.C. and he will be speaking to the United States Congress.  I am looking forward to that talk.  Pope Francis will also be visiting and celebrating Mass in New York City and Philadelphia.  Pope Francis is coming with a message for all the Catholics of this country.  May we all listen and understand.  I am certain that other Americans will be listening also.

I would love to have a conversation with Pope Francis before his visit as  I have a few suggestions for him. I pray he continues to be bold – as bold as he has always been in his talks and writings since he became Pope.  He is also a man of surprises. May he have many surprised for us during this visit.

I have discovered Pope Francis to be a pope of compassion, mercy and wisdom – from the first day of his election – truly holy in the Holy Spirit.

Do you remember the evening his election was announced from the alcove of St. Peter’s Basilica?  He began by asking us to pray over him and bless him before he gave his benediction.  It was a moment of silence that I will never forget.  His deep faith was truly evident.

We have witnessed Pope Francis’ readiness to live simply, his concern for the poor and his messages of mercy and hope to all, Catholics.  We have all discovered a Pope with vision, a leader who speaks with boldness and a constant and deep care of the needy and poor. I have been reading and studying the Pope’s recent encyclical, “Laudato si” which is likely to be mentioned often during his visit.  In this encyclical he challenges us all about the way in which we care for or not of our environment. 

The sub-title of the encyclical is “care for our common home.”  Pope Francis asks us to be concerned and prepared to join the effort of his campaign for this world of ours. 

Pope Francis begins his encyclical by demanding that we realize the harm that has been done to our world by failing to realize the damage that has hit our climate.  His concern is that so many of these abuses are most harmful to the poor and needy.

The title of the encyclical, “Laudato si” (Praise be to you, my Lord) matches the first words of St. Francis of Assisi’s beautiful canticle.  St. Francis begins by calling us to praise God “through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.”

So, Pope Francis begins his encyclical by writing, “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” 

Pope Francis continues the length of the encyclical to encourage us to take responsibility to respect our planet.  He challenges the leaders of the world to realize the problems.  Of course, he is being very controversial, yet, I see him as one who is bold enough to try and reach all world leaders to make our world a better place. 

This is quite a Pope – he is ready to speak out with compassion, and yet, with challenge to the people of the world to do something.  His greatest concern is for the poor and needy.  He asks us to live simply that we might join the needy in spirit.  He asks us to stand together in this campaign to do something to demonstrate our true concern for God’s creation.   

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