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Capitol address: Scenes from pope’s speech to Congress

September 25th, 2015 Posted in National News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — As Pope Francis spoke to a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24, the members of the House and Senate vacillated between their usual response to similar addresses and intensely focusing on the pontiff’s heavily accented, carefully pronounced delivery of a text in English.

Pope Francis pauses in front of the  sculpture of St. Junipero Serra in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, pool)

Pope Francis pauses in front of the sculpture of St. Junipero Serra in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, pool)

Every seat in the chamber and the galleries above was occupied for the much-anticipated first speech by a pope to the combined members of Congress, the Cabinet, four members of the Supreme Court and representatives of the diplomatic corps and many guests.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic Republican from Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic Democrat from California, invited the pontiff.

Previously, Boehner had unsuccessfully invited Pope Francis’ two predecessors to address a joint meeting. His counterpart as head of the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden, sat alongside him behind Pope Francis, much as they do during the president’s State of the Union addresses.

It was perhaps a measure of the unusual speech that Pope Francis’ arrival in the chamber was announced ceremonially with the awkward-sounding: “the pope of the Holy See.” The pope is the head of the Catholic Church, and the Holy See is generally used as a religious reference. But the Holy See also is recognized as a sovereign state.

Boehner, who is known for readily crying, was true to his reputation, appearing to choke up at points during the speech and clearly doing so as he later stood alongside him on the West Terrace of the Capitol when the pope briefly greeted an assembled crowd of tens of thousands of people on the lawn.

In very brief remarks from the terrace, translated into English for the public, Pope Francis said he was grateful for all who came to the event, particularly for the children. “God bless them,” he said.

He also asked those gathered to “pray for me. And if there are any of you who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to send good wishes my way.”

A speech that referenced President Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and American Catholics Father Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day provided fodder for numerous applause interruptions. Some of the sure-fire applause triggers included the pope’s opening line, thanking the members of Congress for their invitation to “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” as well as references to freedom.

At other points in the 45-minute speech, however, the body’s partisan roots seemed to carry the moment. At the pope’s laudatory mention of reopening dialogue between countries that have been at odds, some members of Congress were quick to respond with applause. Others seemed uncertain whether the reference was about Iran, Cuba, Colombia or some other situation with which they might or might not agree.

Also drawing mixed reactions, often along partisan lines, were his references to protecting the environment, ending the arms trade, welcoming refugees, cooperating toward the common good and the responsibility “to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

The speech was among the hardest tickets to get during the pope’s three-day visit in Washington. Each member of Congress was allotted one guest ticket. More than a dozen bishops and cardinals were in the room, however. Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Washington’s retired archbishop, were among them. Nearly all the seating sections in the gallery above the House floor appeared to include at least one priest and/or a bishop.

Reporters from around the globe were added into the normal contingent of political writers, crammed into standing-room spots above the speaker’s rostrum, with no view of the podium. Vatican reporters accustomed to parsing the tightly written prose of papal speeches worked alongside Washington-based writers whose usual work involves vote-counting and filtering broad political rhetoric.

While the pope was in the Capitol, Boehner met with him and a contingent of Catholic bishops in his office, and took him on a brief tour of Statuary Hall. There, the pope was shown the statue of St. Junipero Serra, canonized by Pope Francis just the day before. Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary is one of the two statues placed in the Capitol by the state of California. Each state is allocated two slots.

Video shot by the press pool also captured a moment in a hallway, when Pope Francis was shown bowing his head for a blessing. Fellow Jesuit Father Patrick J. Conroy, chaplain of the House of Representatives, placed his hands on either side of the pope’s head for the blessing.

Father Conroy said later that he thought to offer the pope a blessing rather than making a typical comment in the brief time they would have to speak when they met in the hallway off the Capitol’s carriage entrance.

“I figured he’d probably be willing to accept that,” he said, particularly in light of Pope Francis’ first remarks to the public after his election in 2013.

Speaking from the balcony of the papal apartment in the Vatican, the newly elected pope asked the people to pray for him.

Father Conroy said he introduced himself, welcomed him to Washington and speaking as one Jesuit to another, offered the blessing.

As the pope bowed his head, Father Conroy said his prayer, in Spanish, was “may the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit come upon you, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”


A video to accompany this story can be found at https://youtu.be/GiZWs08RQcY

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Concerning families: Parish groups discuss family life in anticipation of pope’s visit to Philly


For The Dialog


BETHANY BEACH — Pope Francis’ focus on family life has struck a chord with parishioners of St. Ann Parish in Bethany Beach.

Study groups there are poring over the final report of the October 2014 World Synod of Bishops on the family with hopes of preparing a document of their own to be sent to Bishop Malooly and to leaders of a second synod, building upon the first, this coming fall.

Like those at the October synod, people attending St. Ann’s study sessions have strongly held and often differing views involving issues affecting family life today, Roach said.

“The church is really involved in a time of discernment about the family and pastoral care for the family,” said Molly Roach, director of religious education at St. Ann. “People want to talk about this. They are really concerned about what is going on with the family in the church.” Read more »

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Manila cardinal’s day: Preparing for pope’s visit, being with the poor


Catholic News Service

MANILA, Philippines — “Today I was thinking about the tenacity of the poor,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila as he and his guests rode past a polluted creek lined with the cardboard, plastic and tin shacks of people he describes as “informal settlers.”

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, blesses the lot of a housing project in Pasay City during a Jan. 11 ground-breaking ceremony. The building will house 67 of the families living along a creek and roughly 300 families already living in their own tiny apartments.(CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, blesses the lot of a housing project in Pasay City during a Jan. 11 ground-breaking ceremony. The building will house 67 of the families living along a creek and roughly 300 families already living in their own tiny apartments.(CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

He had just presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for a building that will house 67 of the families living along the creek, then celebrated a late-afternoon Mass for them and for the roughly 300 families already living in their own tiny apartments in neat, two-story cinderblock units built under the auspices of the St. Hannibal Empowerment Center.

As he arrived in a pedal cart to the building site, a lot vacant except for a huge pile of rubble, and as he left the Mass, the crowds pressed in. Police and community organizers had to form a cordon to get him to his car after Mass, but he still stopped to pose for selfies, smiling broadly and bringing the hands of the elderly to his forehead in a sign of respect.

The poor, he said, “are willing to wait. When life is easy, it’s easy to say I’m a hopeful person,” but the poor in the Malibay community of Pasay City on the outskirts of Manila had been living in shacks for decades. They spent three years working with the Rogationist Fathers on community education and community-building projects before they found, financed and purchased the plot of land that will be their new home.

Pope Francis was scheduled to arrive in Manila Jan.15, and the 57-year-old cardinal had a million details to handle, many of them dispatched with his lightning quick telephone text-messaging skills, but he immersed himself in the crowd at the ground-breaking ceremony and Mass Jan. 11.

It was just a couple hours in a day filled with appointments from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. He didn’t stop for lunch, although after the Mass in Pasay City and before heading to the next Mass, he did take a little piece of cake that was part of the sweet array offered to his guests by the sisters who staff his residence. He also popped a couple “pastillas de leche” into his mouth, trying to tempt his already sugar-buzzing guests.

When a comment was made that he seems much thinner than he did in October when he was one of the presidents of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, he said, “It’s no joke preparing for the Holy Father.”

Asked if his schedule would be any lighter the next day, he replied with a long, drawn out “no.” But despite all the meetings, he still had to find a way to spend a bit of time with his father, Manuel, because it was his dad’s 85th birthday. Although he knew it wasn’t quite right, he said he might have to ask his brother to bring his parents to Manila from their home in Imus, about 15 miles away.

His parents have not been unaffected by the planning for the papal trip. Cardinal Tagle said he has been hearing from all sorts of “long-lost friends” who were hoping to meet Pope Francis. “Some even go to my mother,” Milagros, asking for tickets to one of the papal events, he said.

The cardinal’s public Sunday began with him warmly welcoming a succession of journalists to his home, standing where TV crews told him to and answering their questions with ease. He posed for group and individual photos with almost all of them.

He talked about the papal trip, the morning earthquake that woke all his visitors, the Filipino people, Pope Francis’ personality, popular piety and the poor. He expressed concern about how he will deliver the gifts people have given him to give to the pope. They fill 14 boxes so far, he said, and the nuncio doesn’t want them stacked at the nunciature where the pope will sleep.

During a fast-paced and often funny conversation with Lino Rulli, host of the “The Catholic Guy” on SiriusXM, Cardinal Tagle said he is not nervous about the approaching papal visit. “I’m excited. I want to see how the pastor in him will react to the reality here.”

The pope, he said, practices what he preaches about going out to the world’s peripheries to meet, listen to and help the poor and excluded.

When you do that, the cardinal said, “you will learn something,” and he’s looking forward to seeing the pope’s face, watching his eyes, when he “receives the Gospel proclaimed to him by the poor.”

The theme came up again in an evening conversation before the last events of the day: a 7 p.m. Mass in a super-packed Santo Nino de Tondo Church and dinner afterward with the concelebrating priests, auxiliary bishop and the journalists who were treated as his honored guests.

The Filipino poor usually are “resigned, in a positive sense. They say, ‘We will try to succeed, but if not, God will take care of us,’” he said. Even if they cannot provide their children with a nice house, good schools and nutritious meals every day, they try to live honorably and ensure special events are celebrated. “If nothing else, they want to leave their children a good name and good memories. You hear that over and over from the poor.”

Cardinal Tagle said he did not know how to judge the accuracy of the predictions that 5 million people will attend the pope’s Mass Jan. 18 in Manila’s Rizal Park, but he knows a lot of the poorest Filipinos will be there.

“Many people believe that even if they cannot see the pope up close, if they are geographically present, it will bring a blessing. And their children and grandchildren can say they were there,” he said. Sacrificing to get to the park, waiting for hours and putting up with the crowds “is a bodily form of prayer, like fasting.”

Cardinal Tagle said that over and over again, his understanding of the Scriptures has taken on new depth from his experience with the poor and “their wisdom, their hope.” That’s what he wants to share with the pope.


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