Christopher Dickey writes: God bless the common sense of this very uncommon pope. Pope Francis’s first address in the United States, given on the White House lawn, could not have been simpler, more straightforward, and more genuine had he used that phrase dear to Americans, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
There is no question his remarks will be seen by some as a kind of progressive manifesto because of his pleas for economic justice and sane environmental policies, yet within the context of his church and his teachings, and his understanding of what makes the United States a great nation, his logic was unassailable.
“Freedom,” he said, “remains one of America’s most precious possessions,” calling on everyone in this country to “preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten of compromise it.”
Of course he emphasized religious freedom — potentially a difficult question when the state imposes rules and edicts on believers, whether making institutions pay for birth control, or bureaucrats issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But the core of the pope’s message, the heart and soul of it, was tolerance.
“Together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive,” Francis told some 15,000 people invited to hear him speak on the South Lawn. Catholics, as he sees them, and would lead them, are committed “to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: He may be the world’s foremost Catholic, but to his fans, Pope Francis is more Martin Luther King Jr. than Pope Benedict XVI. He speaks, and millions listen — whether they are Muslim or Baptist, Hindu or atheist.
“I believe he’s a world leader more than a religious leader,” said Sasha Datta, a practicing Hindu who is planning to try to see Francis in Washington. “His openness, his ability to not shy away from real issues — I see a lot of hope when I see people like Pope Francis.”
Two years after his papacy began, Francis — the pontiff with the common touch and the tolerant embrace — is a lodestar to both the spiritual and secular worlds, a global celebrity to those who admire his warmth and a rudder to those who share his concerns about climate change, social justice, poverty and more. [Continue reading…]
“Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires in 1936 as the first child of a middle-class immigrant family that left Italy fearing for the life of his grandmother, who was highly involved with the movement Catholic Action during the early rise to power of Benito Mussolini’s fascist movement,” writes Inés San Martín: Buenos Aires boasts the sixth largest Jewish community in the world — not to mention the only McDonalds selling kosher food outside of Israel — and also a big Muslim community, the result mostly of a wave of Syro–Lebanese immigration.
The resulting blend of faiths and peoples produced some unique contradictions in the Argentina of Bergoglio’s youth, including the surreal reality that at times, children of Nazi concentration camp survivors attended public school with the children of Nazi war criminals, both groups that sought refuge in the country.
Argentina is also among the few countries in Latin America that also features an important presence of historic Protestant churches, such as the Lutheran, Methodist, and Anglican confessions.
Bergoglio savored the coexistence among Christians, Jews, and Muslims when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, and took it with him to the Vatican. Two of Francis’ closest advisors on inter-faith affairs are friends from Buenos Aires: Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud. [Continue reading…]