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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘Pope of the people’ makes first US trip

Pope+Francis
Photo by Provided
Pope Francis

Pope Francis visits the United States for the first time Tuesday.

During the trip, the pope will address audiences in both English and Spanish in Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. The visit comes after a three-day visit to Cuba and will include a speech before the U.S. Congress as well as the United Nations.

Amy King, president of A&M’s Catholic Student Association and marketing senior, said Pope Francis’ ability to connect with people worldwide has coined him the title “pope of the people.”

Felipe Hinojosa, associate professor of history who teaches U.S. Latino and Mexican history in the 20th century and Latino religion, said Pope Francis has had a profound impact on the religious community in the United States — Catholic or not. 

“I’m not Catholic — but when I hear him, it’s hard not to have his words make a very deep intimate connection with what I believe about the world and what I believe about people of different faiths and what I believe about justice,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said the Pew Research Center found approximately 90 percent of Catholics agree with the direction of the Roman Catholic Church under Francis’ papal rule. 

By visiting the United States, Pope Francis offers a beacon of hope amid negative events in America, such as shootings, diseases and political arguments, King said.

King said Pope Francis inspires Catholics to carry out their beliefs and break down barriers between social classes.

“Pope John Paul II taught us what we believe, Pope Benedict XVI taught us why we believe it and Pope Francis is teaching us how to carry it out,” King said.

Hinojosa said Pope Francis equates issues like not taking care of the environment and neglecting poverty with sin. He also said Francis brings up questions of justice and mercy. Thus far, Hinojosa said, Pope Francis has been frank about his opinion on politics and does not shy away from being political. 

Thursday Pope Francis will make this point by addressing the U.S. Congress.

Amol Shalia, president of Texas Aggie Democrats and geophysics senior, said the pope’s address to the Congress will drive the national conversation forward about a lot of different issues.

Previous political issues the Pope has weighed in on include poverty and conservation.

“He has called out income inequality, called for immigration reform and called on us to be better stewards of our planet,” Shalia said. “The best impact is that he can address these issues and help drive out the nastiness of our political discourse and encourage members of Congress to work together.”

Other items on the pope’s itinerary include meeting President Barack Obama and giving a speech at Independence Hall using the same lectern President Abraham Lincoln used during the Gettysburg Address.

Hinojosa said the pope’s visit shows an affirmation of the importance of religion in the United States and the role religion and politics play in shaping each other.

“This is obviously a very historic moment,” Hinojosa said. “I think it speaks to the importance of religion in our society, and it speaks to the role that religion carries in our political worlds — in our social lives as well. Whether we are of the faith or not, I think we should certainly pay attention and listen in on what the pope is saying. Religion matters, and it matters in our society.”

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