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Pope Francis begins his visit to the United States as he arrives in Washington D.C on Tuesday September 22nd. He may seem no different from any universal celebrity as he arrives at the White House Welcoming Ceremony, opened for view to the public on Wednesday. At the hotels and cathedrals the Pope will rest at during his tight 6-day schedule in Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia are the newest beds and bed sheets made for the Pope. New York City completed a 180 foot-tall Pope Francis painting on the south-facing wall of 494 Eighth Avenue to welcome the Pope.
As the fourth pope to visit the United States after Pope Benedict XVI’s visit in 2008, Pope Francis raises questions to what he will bring about in the land with issues of inequality. Out of 26 speeches he will deliver on this trip, four will be in English and the rest will be in Spanish. This definitely prompts the growing Hispanic population in the country and the issues they raise to the fullest. He must also encounter the general decline of the religious faith in the face of modernization and technological advances in the country and therefore, conflicting stances the American Catholics might take. Still, it is risky to assume what messages the Pope is bringing with him and what this trip means to everyone until we hear what he must say.
The Pope’s official schedule in the three of the biggest cities in USA seems somewhat overwhelming for a 78-year-old man to follow through. And not a single agenda looks unimportant. Nevertheless some interesting stops are noteworthy. For example, the Pope will conduct the first ever canonization, a ceremony to declare people as recognized saints, on U.S. soil on Wednesday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate. The Pope will canonize Father Junípero Serra, an influential figure that founded Spanish missions in California in 18th century. While the Pope had previously apologized to the Native Americans for the Catholic Church’s role in the Western colonization, the canonization of Serra’s in admiration for his achievements in expanding Catholicism is viewed somewhat ironic and raises contradictory concerns.
The Pope will also deliver mass at 9/11 Memorial on September 25th in New York. The World Trade Center site had transformed as an inspiring and beautiful place since the previous visit Pope Benedict XVI made back in 2008. In remembrance of those who lost their lives 14 years ago and what the country had since become will be seen in the eyes of the leader of Catholicism, the peacekeeper.
While the public expects to see the special bond between the President Obama and Pope Francis, the Pope plans to pay a similarly unique visit President Obama had last July. Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit a federal penitentiary. Similarly, Pope Francis will be visiting Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility at a neighboring prison in Philadelphia on September 27th, just before he departs for Rome. Just as Obama overhauled sentencing rules after visiting El Reno Federal Correctional Instituting in Oklahoma, the Pope also wishes to remind his beliefs in social justice issues, such controversy over death penalty.
Expectations and speculations are endless while welcoming the Argentine pontiff to the nation and assuming what remnants he will leave behind. Is he going to affect the upcoming presidential elections? Is he going to vamp up the church-going population? Nobody shall know yet.
Lizzie Yang, CSN Staff