Pope Francis ‘speaks’ beyond words. Watch him

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Pope Francis shakes hands with an inmate as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, September 27, 2015.    REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Pope Francis shakes hands with an inmate as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, September 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Pope Francis arrives at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, in New York, September 25, 2015 Photo by Eric Thayer courtesy of Reuters

Pope Francis arrives at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, in New York, September 25, 2015 Photo by Eric Thayer courtesy of Reuters

Pope Francis has had many powerful words for the governing elite of state and church so far on his historic papal visit.

Forget words.

What he does is his message. He embodies what he’s preaching:

Go out fearlessly.

Listen to everyone.

Seek the prayers of the powerless on earth who have equal power in heaven.

Pope Francis shakes hands with an inmate as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, September 27, 2015.    REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Pope Francis shakes hands with an inmate as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, September 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

We saw him embracing prison inmates in Philadelphia, saying he came as their brother.

We saw him as greeted hundreds of students from four New York City Catholic schools who gathered to welcome him at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem.

They’re mostly poor, mostly minority, many immigrants and children of immigrants. Many are the children of the margins where Pope Francis wants the powerful to pay attention. They were surrounded by NYC dignitaries and philanthropists and he shook all their hands, but the children were the ones for whom he radiated joy.

By bringing the spotlight to the schools, many struggling to keep tuition low and standards high, he honors the sacrifice parents make to give their children the Catholic education they value, said Archbishop of Louisville Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


READ: Some fans hope Pope Francis can boost US Catholic schools


We saw it when he posed for selfies with the homeless at Catholic Charities in Washington D.C. as well.  “I guarantee you those would be the best pictures of the visit,” said Msgr. John Enzler, president of Catholic Charities at the Archdiocese of Washington.

Watch me touch and pay respect to every person, the pope said with his actions as he met with immigrants in New York City on Friday afternoon. Accept our gifts, they told him, offering everything from the humble gift to the grand. One man told Francis that the love of thousands flowing toward him was their gift to him.

“Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment,” the pope had told the United Nations, where he decried the spread of a “culture of waste.”

With his words, in the gym at Our Lady Queen of Angels, he spoke of school as a model of how we live together.


READ: Black Catholics: Pope will meet ‘vibrant, active part of the church’


“Very near here is a very important street named after a man who did a lot for other people. I want to talk a little bit about him. He was the Reverend Martin Luther King. One day he said, “I have a dream.”

“His dream was that many children, many people could have equal opportunities. His dream was that many children like you could get an education. It is beautiful to have dreams and to be able to fight for them. Today we want to keep dreaming. We celebrate all the opportunities which enable you, and us adults, not to lose the hope of a better world with greater possibilities.”

He spoke of all gathered there who wanted the children to grow up to live in happiness, health and love. “Wherever there are dreams, there is joy, Jesus is always present,” he said, adding that the devil is the one who sows sadness, distrust and envy. But, he said, “Jesus is joy, and he wants to help us to feel that joy every day of our lives.”

Familiar words from this pope. But it was his ministry of presence that spoke most loudly. 

Watch me, he said with his 78-year-old body, marching resolutely forward.

Someone asked me if he was the most charismatic pope I have covered. And I realized that with John Paul II, who was already infirm when I first saw him in St. Louis in 1999, and with retired Pope Benedict, who came to the USA in 2008, I don’t recall what they said.

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

Click on the logo for more Religion News Service coverage of the pope’s visit to the U.S. 

But I do recall clearly the night that now-Saint John Paul met with youth in the St. Louis hockey stadium. He could scarcely walk. People held their breath whenever he approached a flight of steps.

The teens came to him with a gift, a hockey stick. He rose from his chair. He moved slowly to the lip of the stage. He took the stick and he gave it a little swing. Then he looked with his brilliantly blue eyes at the cameras that magnified his face on jumbo screens.

With his body, Pope John Paul II seemed to me to say, “I love you and I will use every ounce of strength I have to reach you.” The crowd roared.

When Pope Benedict XVI arrived, the shy scholar known for a strict adherence to doctrine was a surprise. He entered nearly every stage and spotlight with a smile on his face and his arms wide open.

With those open arms, Pope Benedict seemed to say, “The church is not only rules. It is heart. Here is mine.”

And on Friday, Pope Francis, arriving at Our Lady Queen Of Angels, touching every hand he could reach in lines five deep of squealing cell-phone- and rosary-toting young people, said all this.

Listening with a sincere smile to students explaining their projects in a classroom, cupping his ear to hear their singing, praying with them, he said all this.

With his body. With his smile.

 

  • Betty Clermont

    Among the immigrants he met were those from Honduras. One month after his election, this pope appointed Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga as head of his Council of Cardinals. Rodriguez Maradiaga activelysupported the coup which overthrew the progressive Pres. Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
    “The statements made by Cardinal Rodriguez are so remote from reality so as to be dangerous to the Honduran people, since he is in some ways the real voice of the oligarchy and the main moral legitimacy of the coup perpetrated by the oligarchs, politicians and military, in collusion with sectors of the Republican wing of the United States of America and a sector of the Church known as Opus Dei.” (quotha.net)
    “The coup represented a disastrous step backward for Honduran society as well as its politics … Drug trafficking is now embedded in the state itself … Such crime and corruption have rendered millions of Hondurans destitute and desperate.” (truthout.org)

  • Bernardo

    With or without words, Francis fails to address the flaws and frauds of Christianity:

    Some examples:

    The resurrection con remains as does the absurd beliefs in angels and satan, x-mas, the ascension, the assumption, the immaculate conception, the papacy, original sin, limbo. an all-male, “celibate” clergy and a literal view of the NT even though rigorous historic testing shows it to be only ~20% authentic.