Following Francis: Wednesday

This story appears in the Francis in the United States feature series. View the full series.
Workers clean the steps outside St. Patrick's Cathedral off Fifth Avenue in New York, just one day before Pope Francis' arrival. (Brian Roewe)

Workers clean the steps outside St. Patrick's Cathedral off Fifth Avenue in New York, just one day before Pope Francis' arrival. (Brian Roewe)

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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. 

How workers will be affected by Francis' words

We at NCR sought out responses of people whose work may be affected by the words of Pope Francis.

Heather Reynolds, president and CEO of Catholic Charities in Fort Worth, Texas, was in Washington, DC today on the White House lawn, as well as the canonization mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She told NCR that something that was felt today was how Pope Francis is the people’s pope. She said there was high energy and noted seeing people with U.S. and Vatican flags.

“I think it is awesome how Pope Francis seems to care for all people but especially has preferential care in his heart for the poor, the immigrant, and the vulnerable. It is really validating the work we do at Catholic Charities,” she said. “The other thing is his attitude about the family. In the church we believe it’s the family where you first experience God. In our work at Catholic Charities Fort Worth we work really hard to strengthen families because we know the family is so critical to a thriving society in so many different ways.” 

Reynolds said a takeaway she’ll bring back with her is the emphasis on “taking practical steps to alleviate poverty.”

There is renewed enthusiasm and “I’d continue to encourage everyone to do their part in what the pope is calling us to and ultimately what Christ is calling us to.” 

Reynolds said she had the opportunity to be in Washington, D.C. thanks to Catholic Charities USA who invited the Board of Directors and CEOs to participate. Pope Francis will visit Catholic Charities USA in Washington on Thursday morning.

Dustin Hardison is the director of Stabilization and Housing for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.

“When asked about ways to show God's love, Pope Francis has shared:  ‘Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart.’ At Catholic Charities, we are all in this together -- our donors, volunteers, staff and those we serve -- we help each other animate the gospel of Jesus. Together, we put God’s love into action.

Hardison said he appreciated the fact Pope Francis introduced himself as a ‘son of an immigrant family.’

“Working for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas his energy and teachings of the Gospel remind me of why I do what I do,” he said. “His renewed focus on humanity is something that I admire and respect. 

Jeanne M. Atkinson is the executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“This morning, I was happy to hear President Obama speak of our values as a country of "welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart."

“Given his broad appeal to Catholics as well as non-Catholics, we hope that people will listen with an open heart and an open mind to his words on welcoming immigrants in our communities,” she said. “Now we need to put the Pope's words into concrete action, including comprehensive immigration reform that provides a humane path toward citizenship for those who are here, an end to family detention, and a change in tone as presidential candidates speak on immigration issues.”

-- Elizabeth A. Elliott, 3:42 central time


Joshua McElwee ‏@joshjmac tweets: And Mass with @Pontifex at Washington's Basilica is underway. #PopeInUSA.

Follow Josh at @joshjmac.

-- NCR staff, 3:35 central time

Preparing for the pope in New York

NEW YORK --- The smell of orange-scented cleanser filled the air outside St. Patrick's Cathedral off 5th Avenue here Wednesday afternoon, as tourists and pilgrims entered and exited the historic church's doorways a day before Pope Francis would enter them himself.

With the church in the final steps of a three-plus-year restoration, the steps' cleaning was one of the last steps before the pope's arrival on Thursday. That evening, he will preside at a vespers ceremony with clergy and women and men religious.

Along St. Patrick's western side, Fred Yegros worked to line up his selfie stick for the perfect pic of him and the famed church. Tomorrow, he hopes to do the same … only with the pope in the background. A native Argentine who moved to New York, Yegros has tickets for the vespers service, as well as for the pope's ride through Central Park on Friday, as he makes his way to Madison Square Garden where he will celebrate Mass.

"I'm so excited to see the pope," he said.

Proud of his fellow Argentine, Yegros said Francis brings to the U.S. a message of peace and love for everybody.

Sitting on the St. Patrick steps a few feet down from the cleaning zone, Mary Venker of North Carolina wasn't so lucky. In town with her husband, who is here on business, their flights back to Charlotte leave Thursday morning, before Francis arrives in the early evening.

"I wish I could be anywhere in the United States where he was going to be to be able to see him, because I think he is just a breath of fresh air, not just for the Catholic church but for the world today. Much needed," said Venker, a self-described cradle Catholic and parishioner of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte, the largest U.S. parish.

Venker continued: "He's humble. He embodies and embraces the poor. He is a wake-up call to our society about what we need to do to right things that are wrong in this world … He embraces everything and everybody."

A restoration, or cleaning, in its own right.

--- Brian Roewe 

Holy Mass and Canonization of Junípero Serra at 3:15 p.m. central time

The next scheduled event for today, the Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., begins shortly at 3:15 p.m. central time. It can be streamed on Catholic News Service and USCCB.

-- NCR staff, 3:04 p.m. central time

NCR columnist praises Francis' speech to bishop

Writing that Pope Francis "just radiates the joy that comes from trust in the Lord," NCR’s Washington-based columnist Michael Sean Winters had much to praise about the pope's address to the U.S. bishops this afternoon in St. Matthew's Cathedral.

I have said all along that, for me, the most important speech the Holy Father will give is the one at St. Matthew’s Cathedral when he speaks to the U.S. bishops. The speech did not disappoint. Indeed, it is a masterpiece, not only touching on the themes of his pontificate but doing so in a way that his words evidence what he is talking about.

Read Winter’s full assessment here: Pope to US Bishops: Be Pastors, Not Culture Warriors

--NCR Staff, 1:12 p.m. central time

NCR editor disappointed by pope's address to bishops

NCR editor Dennis Coday wrote in a blog this afternoon that Pope Francis' "oblique" reference to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy re-opens the pope to criticism that he lacks concern for the victims of abuse and is not doing enough to hold bishops responsible.

Coday wrote:

I have to wonder where is the forthrightness we have come to expect from Pope Francis. At the very least he could have used the words “clergy sexual abuse of minors.” ... Praising the bishops for the courage they have shown before acknowledging the pain of the victims, will undoubtedly raise the charges of “he just doesn’t get it.”

Read Coday's full comments here: Francis falters in addressing sex abuse

--NCR Staff, 1:10 p.m. central time

Francis meets, prays with US bishops

At St. Matthew's Cathedral, meeting and praying with the U.S. bishops, Pope Francis outlines his idea of a shepherd. Following is the complete report:

Francis tells US bishops to be ‘promoters of the culture of encounter’

Pope Francis has earnestly outlined exactly what he wants from the U.S. Catholic bishops, telling them Wednesday that they should seek to be shepherds who never shy away from dialogue, do not fight with one another, and always seek out opportunities for encounter.

In a prayer service with hundreds of American bishops at Washington's Cathedral of St Matthew, the pope described the way of the shepherd to his episcopal brethren with compelling and moving language and imagery.  Read the full report.

--Joshua J. McElwee, 1:29 p.m. eastern time


Response to Francis' comments

Michael Mann, an American climatologist and geophysicist, currently director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University:
The Pope's comments here are spot on. Climate change isn't just an issue of science, economics, or politics," wrote Mann, who contributed a chapter to the third Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. "Fundamentally, it is an issue of ethics—both intergenerational and international. We have an obligation  to future generations and to the poverty-stricken of the world, each of whom are likely to be bear the greatest brunt of human-caused climate change despite having had little if any role in creating the problem. I don't want my ten year old daughter growing up wondering why it is that we didn't act in time. I hope that Pope Francis' efforts help insure that we *do* act, at this critical juncture.
Senior counsel at Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Mark Rienzi:
We at Becket are delighted that Pope Francis raised the issue of religious liberty in his initial remarks to the President and the American public. The Pope reminded the President and the nation that religious freedom is 'one of America's most precious possessions' and that we 'all are called to vigilant' to 'preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.'

-- Vinnie Rotondaro, 11:15 a.m. central time

Tweets from NCR at St. Matthew's, Washington, D.C.

Gospel reading @Pontifex and bishops will hear: "Become holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct." #PopeinUS

.@Pontifex going to speak to US bishops in Italian. He wants to be understood. Many American prelates speak Italian, not Spanish. #PopeinUS

Follow McElwee at @joshmac and @NCRonline for the latest updates.

-- NCR staff, 10:55 a.m. central time

Livestreaming Pope Francis at St. Matthew's Cathedral

​Watch the livestream of Francis at St. Matthew's on Catholic News Service or USCCB. Francis just entered the cathedral.

-- NCR Staff, 10:46 a.m. central time

Global Sisters Report's Sr. Jan Cebula at the White House

After spending the last week with the Nuns on the Bus, Global Sisters Report's Sr. Jan Cebula was excited to spend Wednesday morning at the White House welcoming Pope Francis, even though it meant arriving at the White House by 5 a.m. for the 9:15 a.m. welcoming ceremony.

"It was hard for me to see because I'm so short, but I did get a few glimpses" of Pope Francis, she said.

"It's really quite an honor and a privilege to be at such a historical event," she said. "Especially with this pope, whose message is so needed today in the world, in the church."

Cebula said she thought President Barack Obama's speech was "really good. I think he captured [Pope Francis], his spirit, his message, his person."

And she enjoyed that Pope Francis was able to touch on the family, immigration, inequality, the earth, and religious liberty in his speech, which he gave in English.

"He covered the bases," she said.

Cebula said watching Pope Francis and Obama speak was a "wonderful" culmination to the fourth annual bus tour. (The Nuns on the Bus wore their T-shirts to the welcoming ceremony.) She said the people who attended the Nuns on the Bus town hall meetings were eager to talk about the pope.

"People said, 'He's my pope, too!' " she said. "People are excited about his presence and the things he's talking about. It was a perfect fit."

-- Global Sisters Report staff, Sr. Jan Cebula, 10:28 a.m. central time

Meeting with U.S. Bishops at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C. 

The next scheduled event in the U.S. papal trip is a meeting with U.S. bishops at 10:30 a.m. CST.

At 9:41 a.m.CST, Tom Reese, en route to MSNBC for an appearance with Andrea Mitchell, noted that traffic in D.C. was lighter than normal. "Everyone stayed home from work," he said.

-- NCR staff, 10:10 a.m. central time

At St. Matthew Cathedral in media section. Still long wait until pope arrived. Cathedral filled with magnificent strains from choir and small brass ensemble rehearsing. Otherwise mostly empty. small groups of ushers, young priests and seminarians milling about the sanctuary. 
-- Tom Roberts, 8:50 a.m. central time

Francis begins his balancing act

NCR’s Washington-based columnist Michael Sean Winters (you can read Distinctly Catholic daily) offers this assessment of the White House meeting of Pope Francis and President Obama.

The theme of the Holy Father’s talk at the White House was encounter and dialogue, just as it was in Cuba, a comparison that alone will make some of our conservative friends a bit hysterical. He mentioned that he is the son of an immigrant family in the second sentence of his remarks, and notes that America was built by immigrant families, surely another major theme of this trip.  …  (N.B. The Vatican needs a different anthem - no one knows this one, it is too long, and very operatic. I nominate the Salve Regina instead.) 

Read Winter’s full assessment here: Pope Francis at the White House

NCR Vatican correspondent files report from the White House gathering

At the White House -- Pope Francis met with U.S. President Barack Obama in an extraordinarily crowded public encounter outside the White House Wednesday morning, and praised the president for his work fighting climate change but also asked that he protect religious liberty in the country.

In the presence of a record-breaking crowd of some 15,000 invited guests, many of whom had arrived before dawn to glimpse the pope, Francis first thanked Obama for welcoming him -- a "son of an immigrant family" -- to the U.S. Read the full report.

--Joshua J. McElwee, 10:23 a.m. eastern time

Highlights of Francis address at White House

Following are highlights of Pope Francis' address at the White House this morning.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles.

I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. …  [The] right to religious liberty ... remains one of America’s most precious possessions. …

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. … When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history.

I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development …

… I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

--NCR Staff, 9:53 a.m. eastern time

Highlights of Obama’s speech

Following are highlights from President Obama’s address at the White House welcoming Pope Francis to the White House.

Good morning!  What a beautiful day the Lord has made!  Holy Father, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  Our backyard is not typically this crowded ….

I believe the excitement around your visit must be attributed not only to your role as pope, but to your unique qualities as a person.  …

You remind us that “the Lord’s most powerful message” is mercy.  …

You remind us of the costs of war, particularly on the powerless and defenseless, and urge us toward the imperative of peace.  ….

You remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely.  …

And, Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet …

you are shaking us out of complacency. 

--NCR Staff, 8:44 central time.

Livestreaming the papal visit to the White House

Watch a livestream of Francis' White House visit at Catholic News Service or USCCB's website.

Francis at the White House

Tweets from Joshua McElwee ‏@joshjmac

.@BarackObama to @Pontifex: "You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News." #PopeinUS

.@Pontifex greeting crowds in DC, reaching out to people before heading to White House. #PopeinUS

Hard to capture images of @Pontifex with people outside nunciature. Just pure joy on many faces. #PopeinUS

.@Pontifex is en route to the White House, where he will greet @BarackObama.... #PopeinUS

Follow Vatican correspondent Josh McElwee on Twitter at @joshmac as he live-tweets the event.

White House Guests Arriving

A happy and excited crowd is waiting on the south lawn of the White House. People arrived early fearing long delays because of security , but even though visitors had to pass through two checkpoints, including a metal detector, the process was quick and smooth. The crowd includes a wide range of people, including clergy of many denominations, sisters from Nuns on the bus, members of congress and the cabinet. 

-- Thomas Reese, S.J., 7:22 a.m. cst


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