Although his plans include visiting only three cities, plenty of students, staff and faculty at Newman University say they are affected – and excited – about the visit to the United States of Pope Francis.
Pope Francis arrived in the United States Tuesday, Sept. 22 for a six-day visit that will include the first-ever canonization Mass on U.S. soil, a joint session with the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, a speech before the United Nations General Assembly and various other stops along the way. Pope Francis is the fourth pope to visit the U.S., the last being in 2008 from Pope Benedict XVI.
Newman student and Fellowship of Christian Athletes President Sarah Peterson said the Pope’s visit means a lot to her.
“It’s a terrific opportunity to reinvigorate our Catholic faith in this country,” Peterson said. “Pope Francis is a leader of actions and of the common people. I’m excited for his visit. It’s a historic moment in the U.S. and his presence alone will light the fire under the 70 million Catholics here and help us spread the word to others.”
Newman Dean of Graduate Studies and Continuing Adult Education Father Joe Gile said Pope Francis’ visit is extremely important.
“I think it’s going to be a great time for Catholics in this country,” Gile said. “I think it’s going to be one of those times where it’s really fun to be a Catholic.”
Gile said the visit is a tremendous opportunity for the Catholic Church, and he sees it as something that will be inspiring to all the faithful in America.
“I think he brings Jesus Christ to the world,” Gile said. “He goes out to everybody and says, ‘There’s a place for you in this church of ours, you belong.’ He does this no matter how marginalized they are, no matter what they’ve done.”
Gile added that the pope’s reception is going to be tumultuous.
“The crowds are going to be huge,” Gile said. “His popularity crosses denominational lines. Catholics will take great pride in the Holy Father being here.”
Gile also said he looks forward to what Pope Francis will have to say in his address to Congress.
“I think he’ll challenge both sides, both parties,” Gile said. “But both sides will still find some agreement with him. That’s rare. [The pope] just brings the mercy of God to everyone. There’s no political institution that can do that. He’s such a gift. He’s just a real gift to the world.”
Pope Francis arrived around 4 p.m. on Tuesday in Washington D.C. Among other events, he will canonize Junipero Serra, the Spanish missionary who introduced Christianity to California in the 18th century, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on Wednesday. The pope will make his way to New York by Thursday evening, and will arrive in Philadelphia Saturday morning before leaving for Rome at 8 p.m. Sunday.
Listen to an interview of Fr. Gile about the pope’s visit.