Following Francis: NCR continues coverage of the conclusion of Pope Francis' U.S. trip and provides initial analysis of the trip's impact. Editor's note: NCR will be tracking reception to Pope Francis' visit to the United States. Check back at this post throughout the day as it is updated with the latest reactions.
Pope Francis: Catholic superhero
Young Voices: In a number of ways, Pope Francis reminds me of a superhero; for one, he uses his powers to serve others.
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Vatican: Francis' Kim Davis meeting not a show of support
After days of speculation about Pope Francis’ meeting while in the U.S. with a Kentucky county clerk who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, the Vatican clarified Friday that the meeting should not be seen as a show of support by the pope for the clerk.
Francis’ meeting with Kim Davis “should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
Reese on Francis the prophet
While in the United States, Pope Francis exercised his prophetic office by comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, but he did it with a soft and respectful voice.
Before his arrival, some of his critics said that he hated America and didn’t understand it, he was going to lecture Congress, he only talked about the poor and the rich and not working people, and he did not recognize that capitalism had brought millions of people out of poverty.
During his visit, especially in his talk to Congress, he confounded all his critics.
Read more: Pope Francis the prophet
Analyzing the papal mis-messaging of Francis' U.S. visit with Kim Davis
Analysis: The papal mis-messaging of Pope Francis' U.S. visit with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, raises some key questions.
What to Make of the Pope Francis-Kim Davis Meeting?
Michael Sean Winters: "Let me offer an alternative theory of how the meeting happened and what it means: Somebody messed up. A source at the bishops’ conference told me on background that the meeting happened “against the advice of the bishops’ conference.” Other reports in both the Washington Post and the New York Times agree that the meeting was arranged by a “Vatican official.” Seeing as the meeting happened at the nunciature in Washington, it could only have happened with the approval and participation of the nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano."
Sr. Christine Schenk: 'Pope Francis' visit left me with a welter of conflicting feelings'
In our U.S. church, female ministers and lay leaders probably outnumber priests by at least 10 to one, so it’s disheartening that none were included in prayer services.
Dorothy Day: ‘We are not going into the subject of birth control at all as a matter of fact’
The emphasis on questions around human reproduction that Dorothy Day largely avoided in her lifetime has become a successful distraction, overtaking her ardent and staunch condemnations of militarism and capitalism.
Archbishop of Syria Jean-Clément Jeanbart responds to pope's UN speech
Melkite archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, was invited by NCR to share his reaction to Pope Francis' speech to over 150 world leaders at the United Nations this past Friday. Archbishop Jeanbart has been in the U.S. over the past several months in order to raise awareness of the plight of Syrian Christians and non-Christians facing deadly attacks by ISIS and being caught between thewaring ISIS militia and the Syrian government forces.
Tom Reese on Francis the liturgist
Francis came to the United States not only as a prophet to challenge us on public policy issues, he also came as a pastor to break bread in the Eucharist with the Catholic community.
The papal liturgies were meticulously planned and executed, according to American liturgists who watched the ceremonies. “Overall I found the masses well done, given the extraordinary character they had and the mobs of people present,” said one.
In fact, they were so professionally done, a professor of liturgy lamented, “The scale of these liturgies, watched by so many people on TV, is not always helpful to the idea of liturgy as a recurrent Sunday event at which none of those resources are present.”
Pity the poor pastor who has to celebrate for his people after they have seen a papal liturgy. “These events are as much grand opera as they are liturgies,” added the professor.
It did not go unnoticed that the papal altars were overflowing with men with only a couple of women readers and cantors. “I was disappointed with the lack of presence of women either as readers or altar servers in the liturgies,” said a woman liturgist. “The marginalization of women in the Church was obvious.” The servers were seminarians.
Read more: Francis the liturgist
Marching with the workers
Rev. Ty Hullinger was among the striking workers who hoped to get the attention of Pope Francis Sept. 22 in Washington, D.C. While they did not receive an audience, their message was delivered by the pope to the U.S. Congress.
Read more: The call of Francis
Michael Sean Winters: What the pope's visit means beyond the church
Pope Francis did not address specific policies in Washington, with two exceptions, praising President Obama’s anti-pollution initiative and calling for a global abolition of the death penalty. But, he called on politicians to overcome the current polarization in this country and to work for the common good. Will it have any effect? No and yes.
Catholic Worker responds to Francis mentioning Day
Phones were ringing off the walls at the Catholic Worker headquarters following Pope Francis' address to the U.S. Congress, where he mentioned Dorothy Day -- the organization's co-founder -- as one of four key American figures.
"If you would've asked if I could have imagined this 20 years ago, I would've said I couldn't have imagined this a week ago," said Tom Cornell, associate editor of The Catholic Worker newspaper. "It was breathtaking. Astounding."
Cornell said he had the pleasure of working with Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day -- three of the four Americans that Francis highlighted. "I just missed Abraham Lincoln."
Day -- known for her social justice activism and radical criticisms of capitalism -- was largely an unknown name to the general American population, prior to Francis' mention. Cornell said that Francis likely heard of her through Cardinal Tim Dolan of New York, who gave the pope a copy of Jim Forest's All Is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day.
In the media's commentary surrounding Day after the pope's address, Cornell said he noticed that few outlets, if any, mentioned her radical pacifism.
"The thing that united Dorothy, King and Merton was their common commitment to classical-Gandhi nonviolence -- an active form of resistance to tyranny based on openness and truthfulness. It doesn't aim to humiliate anyone; it doesn't aim for victory. It aims for reconciliation and the principal tool of dialogue. Francis uses the word 'dialogue' over and over again in his talks, and that is essential to all nonviolence."
“One Jesuit to another” is how he greeted and blessed Pope Francis when the pontiff came to address a joint session of Congress Sept. 24., Jesuit Fr. Pat Conroy told NCR.
Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives since May 2011, said he knew the only encounter he and Senate chaplain Barry C. Black would get was when the pope first entered the building and that he only had about 20 seconds to say anything.
“Rather than try to engage in poor Spanish in some sort of conversation, I asked him [in Spanish] if I could bless him,” Conroy told NCR. “It would only take a few seconds, it is easy for me to do and he might appreciate it more than a simple exchange.”
The pope’s message seemed to reach across both aisles and Conroy said he hasn’t heard a single voice that thought it was political.
“It was understood he wasn’t saying anything in an accusatory manner,” said Conroy. “He wasn’t providing policy or saying something needs to be done. I don’t think anyone walked out of there feeling picked on.”
Activists appreciate Francis' words amid further questions
In the course of the pope's whirlwind tour of three gritty American cities, Dwayne Royster has heard much to encourage him.
Executive Director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild (POWER), and founding pastor of the city's Living Waters United Church of Christ (UCC), Royster was attending a meeting of more than 300 PICO activists gathered in Philadelphia to participate in events around the Pope's visit.
PICO, People Improving Communities through Organizing, is a grassroots, national network of faith-based community organizations that addresses entrenched issues like wage inequality, poverty, immigration, housing and health care.
Royster, who had been part of a PICO group to visit the Vatican and meet with church officials, was hopeful that he and his companions would influence the Pope's American message. "We tried to encourage the pope by saying to his advisors if you come here, and address immigration, we agree with you. But we're really interested in hearing you tie it to racial justice, the original sin of the Americas," he said.
On Friday, Royster led a group of clergy and PICO participants down city streets in a march that rocked the streets of the cities' Chinatown section, on a journey from the Center City Hotel where they were meeting to Independence Hall, where the pope was to speak the next day. The march and candlelight vigil were part of the organization's "40 Days of Faithful Action," an initiative responding to and drawing energy from the pope's American visit.
Aboard the flight to Rome, Francis rejects women priests, condemns clergy sex abuse
On his way back to Rome from the U.S., Pope Francis made significant statements about clergy sex abuse and women's ordination. He spoke strongly against sexual abuse by priests, calling it a "sacrilege." He also once again forcefully rejected the possibility of female priests in the Catholic church, saying simply that his predecessor Pope John Paul II decided "that cannot be done."
Jamie Manson, NCR columnist and books editor, immediately responded today to Francis' comments on women priests, saying: "For all his beautiful words about equality, dignity, and not being 'afraid to do new things,' Francis still cannot seem to connect his ideals with the church’s perpetuation of inequality, disempowerment, and sexism."
The 'Francis effect' of the U.S. papal trip
From NCR Today blogger Alison Walter: "Pope Francis made quite the splash in the United States this week, but to reduce the "Francis effect" to mere politics is to miss the radical personal transformation that the pope calls for. ... Do I think that everything will miraculously change? No, I don’t. I don’t think that Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform tomorrow. I don’t think that scandal in the church will disappear overnight. And I don’t expect the pews to be magically full next Sunday. But I do believe that for the millions who encountered Francis face-to-face and from afar, their lives will change."
Sights and sounds of the parkway on Francis' final day in US
Philadelphia -- With his easel set up back from the massive crowd along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, just south of the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Kevin Johnson, teacher and mural artist, felt inspired to paint. Johnson, stirred by the show of his city in welcoming Pope Francis, painted the pontiff as people watched him on giant screens celebrate his final Mass of his six-day stay in the United States. More than a few people stopped in their tracks to watch the artist paint, as well.
“The people came out to show love to the pope and love to Philadelphia. I came out because of the people,” he said.
Parting imperative to US: Don't be afraid of new things!
On the Benjamin Franklin Parkway -- Pope Francis ended his exhaustive six-day, three-city tour of the U.S. Sunday with a strong exhortation to American Catholics to be unafraid of trying new things, even if they seem to threaten long-practiced traditions or existing church structures.
In a homily to hundreds of thousands at an outdoor Mass packing Philadelphia's iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Francis said that Jesus' disciples were also afraid of new things -- but that Jesus broke down all barriers to allow the Spirit to do its work.
"Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did," the pope told the crowds, many of whom had waited for long hours to participate in the last of his three public Masses while in the U.S.
"For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable," said the pontiff.