giulio napolitano /

Photo Credit: Giulio Napolitano /

Pope Francis’s visit to Washington has created an interesting discussion about transportation. The media focus seems to be more on how the holy visit will create problems for residents. Maybe we should all stay home and keep out of the way.

The message of Pope Francis is first reported like a labor strike. We learn first about how the strike might simply disrupt things. The focus is never on why the workers are striking in the first place. We have to reach for the high shelf to discover what the pope is selling us.

At times Americans tend to go with the buffet instead of what’s on the menu. In other words, we select the words of the pope we like and try to fit it into our political diet. Climate change, poverty, abortion, and countless other issues can be hidden under the pope’s robe. After every speech we try to disrobe him. What did he say? Did he reveal the naked truth?

At the end of the day, the pope’s visit will have no immediate impact on our lives unless we embrace what is his central message. One can find it near the end of his new Encyclical on ”Care for our Common Home.” The pope is calling for a change in one’s lifestyle. He wants us to overcome our individualism and consumerism. He wants us to become good ecological citizens. None of this can be achieved without a change inside our hearts. How do we begin to practice civic and political love?

The pope’s message underscores how we are all connected — the poor, the migrant, the rich, the mountains, trees, and birds. There are no borders or boundaries surrounding the heart when we remove the fences and bars of racism and hatred, when we push back the darkness of fear.

Pope Francis is a messenger of light, revealing the tenderness of beauty. He is a man who has not abandoned his faith in humankind. His trip to America is a blessing and a reminder that we have difficult work to do. We must never give up on love or on this earth we find each day beneath our feet. God’s gift is discovered with each breath we take — let us not waste it — or else suffocate the rest of our days.

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