Pope Francis's short visit to America comes after a series of papal speeches and publications about current issues in American culture and politics, including immigration, economics, sexuality, and climate change. His speech to Congress will be a historic first—never before has a pope formally addressed our politicians. What are the implications of that? In what ways can we all, Catholics and non-Catholics, welcome his perspective? Where should we challenge it? What is the significance of the pope's visit for Catholics and for people of other faiths or no faith at all?
From general to really specific, here are eleven Pope Francis facts!
Thomas Albert Howard
Pope Francis' visit should prompt us to look back at past papal visits and consider the Holy See’s attitude toward the United States more generally.
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Here was a Pope who stood up against consumerism and unbridled capitalism... If ever we need religious leaders, he would be the kind we need.
Pope Francis is not perfect, and far from it, but I think he's been a game-changer for the Catholic Church. I can say without shame that I love this Pope!
Porter C. Taylor
I am not a Roman Catholic but I am proud of Pope Francis as a Christian and I look forward to his visit and his continuing papal ministry.
Barbara Falconer Newhall
OK then, Francis, pope of surprises. Surprise me. Let go of some of that churchly power.
Solutions require "dialogue," compromise, hard work and sacrifice. Those aren't liberal or conservative ideals. They're American ideals.
Are you watching this? Are you paying attention to this Pope? Because what I'm seeing is Hope.
What, precisely, is the benchmark of ideal Catholicism against which the Pope is being judged?
When will this happen again? When will the world be transfixed by joy?
Millions are re-considering their perspective on the Catholic Church because of the welcoming nature of this very personal pope.
Eager to glimpse the big picture of Francis’ pontificate? Frustrated connecting the dots from soundbyte to soundbyte?
Despite the evidence of the 2007-2008 economic collapse, many people still defend laissez-faire or nearly unregulated markets.
The Council on Foreign Relations brought together three leading Catholic experts to discuss Pope Francis ahead of his visit to the United States.
Perspectives from Non-Catholics
I hope your visit impacts others to take a stand in the name of peace, in the name of unity, and in the name of love.
Brandon Mark Showalter
Even as I have read the moving stories and seen the pictures of his compassion in action since he became Pope, I do not think I fully realized just how beloved he is.
Even if we won't win, should we stop trying to live with love?
Pope Francis is coming to town, but his gifts of respect and love aren't made to be hidden away.
The Rev. Porter C. Taylor
Let us stop being surprised by the Pope. Let us look at our own hearts and lives to see if we are truly extending God’s love into the world.
A culture that truly values lives does not focus on one act or one moment. It seeks to create a positive value of life from the cradle to the grave.
As the hullabaloo over Pope Francis' visit to America reaches a fever pitch, it's important to keep in mind some sobering realities about the organization he leads.
Recently named the most influential world leader on Twitter by data research blog Twiplomacy.com, Pope Francis has maintained a social media presence since he joined the social network two and a half years ago.
We asked people what they thought about Pope Francis.
It is my prayer that as the nation turns its eyes on D.C., New York, and Philadelphia to hear Francis' proclaim the Gospel.
Just as the pope leads the single largest Christian sect on earth, the Khalifa leads the single largest unified Muslim community on Earth.
Holly Taylor Coolman
The pope's ferula is not so much a sign of power as it is a sign of vulnerability and encounter, signaled by the cross on top.
As a Pagan, I do not need Francis to be my spiritual leader. But as a world citizen, I need his call to compassionate leadership.
I am a grateful Jew who simply wants to thank Pope Francis for reminding me about the power of mercy, at just the right time in my own ritual calendar.
Fr. Robert Sirico
America has been one of the greatest poverty-reducing machines in history. More than one faithful Catholic has wondered whether this pope understands this truth.
Pope Francis is creating a new image for the Roman Catholic Church, one that many in the Hindu community in America can appreciate.
As a non-Catholic who was born in the Vatican II era, I feel like I’ve lived most of my life in the “two-steps back” phase of Catholicism.
You admitted that ever since your father, an accountant, brought work home on weekends, you have had a grudge against economics and finance.
Phil Fox Rose
By focusing on love and reconciliation rather than dogma, social issues, and politics, Pope Francis could bring a sea change for the American Catholic Church.
Pope Francis's first-ever visit to the United States offers each of us a blueprint for hope, no matter who we are or where we are amidst the uniquely diverse American tapestry.
Pope Francis and the Church he represents offer Americans an alternative to both "Left" and "Right," a new vision of the human person made in God's image.
This Argentine pope is more skeptical of the Anglo-American historical paradigm than his two predecessors, whose nations were liberated by that paradigm from dreadful tyrannies.