Pope Francis made his first ever visit to the United States last week, marking the first visit for any Pope to the United States since Pope Benedict in April 2008.
Pope Francis completed a three-city, six-day tour during his time in the States. His first stop was to our nation’s Capitol in Washington D.C., where he addressed members of congress and made an appearance at the White House. In his speech to congress, Pope Francis encouraged our elected officials to work together to solve some of the toughest problems facing our nation and the world in the new 21st century. While some politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to be at odds with the pope over his political positions, they were quickly reminded why he was here. Meanwhile, on his last day in America, hundreds of thousands of people lined up in the streets of Philadelphia to watch and listen to a mass led by the Pope. People from across the country came to see something they may never get to again, a mass from the holiest man on earth.
In his service and speeches Pope Francis mentioned defending religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms, while reminding us Abraham Lincoln upheld those same values. Pope Francis also made a visit to the White House, where he seemed to take a jab at President Obama, as he met with the U.S. Bishops from across the land. He called on them to uphold religious liberty against those who “threaten and compromise it” as he looked at President Obama directly. The Pope continued his east coast swing by heading to New York City, stopping at the U.N. and 9/11 memorial before delivering a mass to a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden, something the Knicks have trouble doing. Inspiring the crowd with words and readings they may forget after an ordinary mass on any other Sunday, the Pope left a lasting impressing.
Some have said that Christianity in the United States has been on a steady decline, that freedom of religion ought to be changed to freedom of worship and should only be recognized on Sundays. Moreover, some feel that people’s faiths need to change with the time they are living in. As we saw last week, millions of Americans still hold their faith dearly. The Pope reminded Americans of all ages and all ethnicities, that religious liberty has been instilled in this country since our founding. Also, stating that our conscience should always play a factor in any decision we as humans make. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) publicly showed support with the Pope’s mass when he remarked “The United States of America did not create religious liberty, religious liberty created the United States of America.” Our first amendment rights may not ever be infringed upon by our government, for if they are, we may cease to be the world’s shining beacon of hope. For centuries, men, women and children have come to this nation to escape religious persecution. Pope Francis reminded us of our exceptionalism, ending his service by telling God to continue to bless the United States of America.