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What the Pope’s Visit to America Means to the World

Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, MPA

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POPE Francis is taking America by storm. The Americans were captured not just by his messages but by the man who passed himself off as low-key and humble yet possessing grit and determination in wanting to squash the many evils that afflict the world.

He may not have mastered the English language just yet, but his mastery of hot-button issues that threaten humanity more than made up for this inadequacy as he delivered his speeches in front of politicians, clergy, and the adoring faithful in New York and Washington.

His stirring yet compassionate appeal to US Congress to heal the “open wounds” of a planet torn by hatred, greed, poverty, and pollution truly pierced the hearts of his listeners. This challenge, I believe, should resonate not only in the hallowed halls of the Capitol in Washington but in the hearts of all, especially those most guilty of depriving others the life and dignity they so deserve.

The Pope expressed in a very clear and practical way a sort of moral compass that should guide America, and for that matter, the rest of the world, on how to put an end to the most pressing problems afflicting humanity.

Without even mentioning abortion, he expressed in no uncertain terms that respect for life is a moral obligation and took a swipe at the death penalty and called for its abolition. He talked about migrants and refugees, and stressed the need to open international borders in a bid to accommodate people displaced by war and terrorism. He challenged America to take the lead in caring for the earth and the environment by putting an end to the selling of weapons that foment war and by curbing pollution that destroys nature.

What makes this man so effective in communicating his messages is his unassuming character. He doesn’t call attention to himself but points to issues that destroy the very foundation of our being that we are created and called to be the “image and likeness of God”.

His cry of “Mercy and Compassion” is not mere rhetoric but provides a landscape where the church can reach out to as many people as possible, who are made victims of the world’s cruelty and its oppressive systems.

The Pope’s quest for just and peaceful solutions to the problems of the world may seem to be quixotic. In an era of pluralism and a world divided by individual ideologies and personal interests, his call may prove to be just a mere echo reverberating in the wilderness. But why would one dismiss such a vision of a unified, peaceful and charitable abode for all? Unless greed is curtailed and selfishness is restrained, it is not unimaginable to think that there are still those who would resist such an unselfish and noble call for the common good.

Rep. John Boehner, US Speaker of the House, buoyed perhaps by the visit of the Pope, resigned from his post. Quipping simply, “It’s time”. No one knows for sure the real reason for such resignation but it can very well be because politics, which is oftentimes defined by partisanship and division and the promotion of personal interests instead of common good, is no longer tenable and effective to pursue the Pope’s call for a better world.

This leads me to look at our beloved Philippines. Months detached from the Pope’s own visit to the country, it still remains to be seen whether our government and the church have made strides in helping those in the peripheries to taste and experience not luxury but a more humane manner of living.

While the Pope speaks of welcoming refugees, it is troubling to learn that our very own “Lumads” and Indigenous Peoples (IPs), especially those in the South, are being eased out of their ancestral lands by government forces, thereby making them “refugees’ in their own country.

Again, in his speech at the US Congress, the Pope reiterates his call to defend the sanctity of traditional marriage and the dignity of the family in sharp contrast to what Sen. Bong-Bong Marcos said, that “Marriage is defined not by gender but by love”. Such continuing “ideological colonization” and distortion of Biblical truths through possible legislations is alarming, especially since they are being slowly adopted in a predominantly Catholic country such as ours.

Indeed, when “America sneezes, the rest of the world catches the cold”. We are not sure, of course, whether a powerful nation will bend to the plea of the Vicar of Christ on earth. But this is not just about America and her people. The Pope’s message is a call for a collective action to right our wrongs, to wake up from our apathy and slumber and to live by the golden rule. It is actually an appeal to all people of good will to make the world a truly better place to live in.

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