Pope Francis may be the leader of the Catholic Church, but his humble, simple approach will enable him to reach across religious boundaries during his first visit to the United States, one of his newly ordained bishops said Wednesday.
“He’s here primarily as an evangelist. He’ll speak of God, especially in an increasingly secular society,” Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, said on TODAY. “He’ll speak of Jesus Christ, but also of basic human values that will appeal across the denominational lines and even to the secular world. He’s someone very at ease with that kind of communication.”
Pope Francis arrived late Tuesday afternoon in Washington, where he was met by President Obama and the first family. On Wednesday, he started his morning greeting well-wishers as he emerged from the Vatican Nunciature. The pontiff then made his way to the White House for a South Lawn ceremony and address, in which he spoke of climate change as something that "can no longer be left to a future generation."
Greg Burke, senior communications advisor to the Vatican, said the pope’s first full day will serve as “a warm up, or an appetizer" to his widely-anticipated address before the nation's lawmakers Thursday at the Capitol.
“Congress will be the big speech,” he said on TODAY.
Burke predicted the main message the pope will relay is one of "God loves you, God forgives you" and to share that sentiment with others. He also doubts Francis will be as strident in his criticism of capitalism as he has in recent speeches.
“The pope is suspicious of Wall Street; he likes main street," Burke said. "He certainly recognizes the great good the U.S. has done in brining so many people out of poverty. But that doesn’t mean he won’t say, hey, it’s been good for you, but be more generous now."
Despite the attention Pope Francis has attracted for his statements on gay marriage and immigration, the views aren't a departure from what other Catholic leaders have been advocating for years, Burke said.
“It’s very interesting, the pope is saying many of the same thing bishops have been doing, but people are listening now that the pope is there,” he said. “And he’s not watering down doctrine. If you listen to the homilies in the morning, he’s a very old-fashioned parish priest.”
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