Pope To Offer Solidarity With Cubans On Trip To U.S. – Huffington Post
The U.S. visit, planned well before the Cuban stop was added on, will be notable for the center stage Francis is giving Hispanics, who make up about 38 percent of adult Catholics in the U.S., according to the CARA research center at Georgetown University.
Francis will deliver most of his speeches in his native Spanish, even though he speaks very good English. He will meet with immigrants on several occasions and bless a wooden cross particularly important to the Hispanic faithful. His canonization of the Spanish-born Junipero Serra, who built missions across California in the 18th century, is aimed at giving Latino Catholics a role model even though Native Americans have opposed the canonization and argued he helped wipe out indigenous populations.
Most importantly, Francis is expected to make immigration one of the major themes of the visit. Francis has called for countries to be more welcoming of migrants seeking a better life for themselves and decried in particular the plight of would-be migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border— signaling he has no qualms about wading into a politically charged issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.
Carriquiry, the No. 2 in the Vatican’s Latin America commission and a longtime Francis friend, said he expected the pope would reaffirm what U.S. bishops have been saying for years: Ministry to Hispanics “is not an add-on to the so-called Anglo-centric official, traditional ministry, but that it has to do with those who already make up almost half of the Catholics in the country, whose evangelization is a main priority of the destiny of Catholicism here.”
Another hot-button issue Francis will raise is religious liberty, following the legalization of gay marriage across the country and continued opposition by the U.S. church to the birth control coverage requirement in the Obama administration’s health care plan. For Francis though, religious liberty also means denouncing the persecution of Christians by Islamic extremists in the Mideast and Africa.
Technically the reason for the trip is for Francis to participate in the church’s World Meeting of Families, a big Catholic rally in Philadelphia to reinforce church teaching on marriage.
Traditional family values are expected to be high on the agenda, especially since the Philadelphia event amounts to the opening act of a major and contentious meeting of the world’s bishops on family issues — including gays and divorcees — that gets underway a week after Francis returns to Rome.
The archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, said he expected Francis would do what his predecessors have done on trips to the U.S.: remind America of its greatness, of its long history of welcoming foreigners and of the freedoms, first sketched out in Philadelphia, that formed the foundation of American democracy and society.
“He will remind of us our nobility,” Dolan said in a recent interview in the New York City archdiocese. “He will affirm our heritage and in doing that he’ll also remind us of the moral imperative to live up to that.”
Winfield reported from Vatican City.
AP Religion writer Rachel Zoll contributed from New York.