House Chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy has some advice to lawmakers as they prepare for Pope Francis’ visit: don’t politicize.
He said the cameras will be paying attention to how members react to what Francis says, and, with a laugh, added, “I would pretend that I was in church and I would listen attentively.” Conroy, like Francis, is a Jesuit priest and said the pontiff has experience with unruly crowds. “I’m not concerned, whatever happens will happen. The pope taught high school students; he can handle anything,” he said.
But, some Catholic lawmakers are going the extra mile to prepare for Francis. Some members have already politicized the visit. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., a Catholic, said he would boycott Francis' address to Congress on Sept. 24, because he didn't agree with the pope's climate change beliefs. But others have kept it spiritual, and have taken up the The Walk with Francis pledge.
Hosted by Catholic Charities, it an open-ended pledge to either pray, serve or act on behalf of Francis. While in Washington, Francis will receive a book from Catholic Charities of social media posts including #WalkwithFrancis.
More than 72,000 people have signed on thus far. “The Hill, we hope it takes off there,” Catholic Charities spokesman Erik Salmi said.
The first member to make the pledge was Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.,who chose “serve” as his pillar. Delaney, the former gala chairman of Catholic Charities, recently worked at a soup kitchen in his district to fulfill his promise.
“I think everyone on the Hill is excited for Pope Francis to come, he’s the most popular person in the world right now,” Delaney said. “But I think for the Catholics on the Hill, it’s a special moment because he is the leader of our church.”
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., told CQ Roll Call, “To mark the occasion, I’ve joined Catholic Charities to take the pledge to ‘Walk With Francis’ by making a donation to the Franciscan Center in my hometown of Baltimore."
“The wonderful Franciscan Sisters and dedicated lay people have been serving the poor there for more than 120 years – touching souls, touching lives and meeting compelling human needs like food and clothing,” she added.
Mikulski is encouraging others to take the pledge by praying, donating to a favorite charity or serving in their community. “What a wonderful way to celebrate this historic event,” she said.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., has taken the pledge and said, “this Pope is such a healing person to me and [reminds] us all that we’re part of one community.”
Educated by nuns, Dingell is involved with the organization So Others Might Eat in Washington. “I’m a Catholic girl and the Pope coming in is one of those things that for me is one of the most significant things that will happen in my lifetime,” she said
A letter was sent to Francis in August from 13 Jesuit-educated members to welcome him. One of the signers, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., is Episcopalian and received his law degree from Georgetown University.
“With the world looking for U.S. leadership on so many pressing issues, the Pope brings to Congress what is truly a rarity in these halls – a nonpartisan, nonpolitical voice. I look forward to hearing the Pope’s perspective on how we can make the world more peaceful and just,” the Budget committee ranking member said.
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