Popular Pontiff to Visit U.S., Americans Enthusiastic

If you say just one name, Francis, most people in the world know you’re talking about the pope.  The popular Pontiff will be visiting the U.S. next week and many American Catholics and probably some who aren’t Catholic at all, will be listening closely to every word.

For many in the U.S., Pope Francis propelled to almost Rock Star fame back in 2013 with these words “who am I to judge?”  He was talking about gays and his comments were perceived as a milestone by gay Catholics.  “When the pope talks, people listen,” Chris Brown of Savannah told us then.  “I think this represents a worldwide shift in the view people have of the LGBT community, and it should be celebrated.”

Since 2013, there have been plenty of other headlines for Pope Francis.  He has not shied away from making pointed comments about global warming.  Yes, he believes it exists and that it’s affecting the poorest nations in the world the most.  He’s called on the world community to do more to combat climate change and poverty around the world.

Two directives issued recently involved new methods to allow divorced Catholics to receive annulments sooner.  And for forgiveness to be offered freely to a woman who has had an abortion if she indicates she is sorry for the act.

The consistent theme of the pope’s message these past two years has been one of inclusion, and of offering an olive branch to Catholics who’ve left the church, specifically American Catholics.

The pope was also instrumental in the U.S. decision to normalize relations with Cuba.  That’s not necessarily a popular decision with Catholic Cubans in the U.S. but he took the stand despite that.

On Saturday, the pope will visit Cuba for several days. As a show of goodwill, the Castro government said it would release some 3,500 prisoners.

Francis is the first Jesuit pope and the first from Latin America.

He will visit three U.S. cities, with his trip to the United States beginning in Washington on Tuesday, September 24.

Highlights of the pope’s Washington visit include:

*Meeting with President Obama at the White House
*Addressing a joint session of Congress
*Visting St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in D.C. and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington

Friday, September 25, Pope Francis will go to New York City.  Highlights of his visit there include:

*Addressing the United Nations General-Assembly
*Mass at Madison Square Garden

On Saturday, September 26, the pope goes to Philadelphia.  Highlights of his visit there include:

*Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul
* Visit to Independence Mall
* Visit to Festival of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Prayer Vigil with World Meeting of Families
*  Return to Rome on Sunday

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