Tag Archives: Catholic church

Pope: Sanders encounter sign of good manners, ‘nothing more’

Pope Francis said his brief encounter with U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was a sign of good manners, “nothing more,” and hardly evidence of interfering in American politics.

The White House hopeful called it a “real honor” to meet “one of the extraordinary figures” in the world, a kindred spirit on economic inequality, which is a main Sanders’ campaign theme.

Francis was on his way to Greece to highlight the plight of refugees and Sanders was wrapping up his trip to Rome when they met in the lobby of the pope’s residence, the Domus Santa Marta hotel in the Vatican gardens. The Vermont senator had attended a Vatican conference April 15 on economic inequality and climate change, and flew back to New York for campaign events on Saturday.

“This morning when I left, Sen. Sanders was there. … He knew I was leaving at that time and I had the kindness to greet him and his wife and another couple who were with them,” the pope told reporters traveling back with him to the Vatican.

“When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more. This is good manners. It’s called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist,” the pope said.

Earlier, Sanders said in an The Associated Press interview that he told the pope that he appreciated the message that Francis was sending the world about the need to inject morality and justice into the world economy. Sanders said that was a message he, too, has tried to convey.

“We had an opportunity to meet with him this morning,” Sanders said. “It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him. I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”

Sanders said he had the chance to tell the pope that “I was incredibly appreciative of the incredible role that he is playing in this planet in discussing issues about the need for an economy based on morality, not greed.”

Sanders and his wife, Jane, stayed overnight at the hotel, on the same floor as the pope. Francis noted to reporters that members of the Vatican conference that Sanders had attended also were staying at the hotel.

Jeffrey Sachs, a Sanders foreign policy adviser, said there were no photographs taken of the pope and Sanders together. Sanders’ spokesman, Michael Briggs, said Francis was “100 percent correct that this was not a political meeting,” thanking the pope’s staff making the arrangements. He said Sanders and his wife “were advised the night before to be ready to meet the pope at 6 a.m.”

The Vatican is loath to get involved in electoral campaigns, and usually tries to avoid any perception of partisanship as far as the pope is concerned, although Francis in February rebuked Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over Trump’s stand on immigration.

Popes rarely travel to countries during the thick of political campaigns, knowing a papal photo opportunity with the sitting head of state can be exploited for political ends.

But Francis has been known to flout Vatican protocol, and the meeting with Sanders was evidence that his personal desires often trump Vatican diplomacy.

“His message is resonating with every religion on earth with people who have no religion and it is a message that says we have got to inject morality and justice into the global economy,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the meeting should not be viewed as the pope injecting himself into the campaign.

“The issues that I talked about yesterday at the conference, as you well know, are issues that I have been talking about not just throughout this campaign but throughout my political life,” Sanders said in the interview. “And I am just very much appreciated the fact that the pope in many ways has been raising these issues in a global way in the sense that I have been trying to raise them in the United States.”

Sachs said Sanders saw the pope in the foyer of the domus, and that the encounter lasted about five minutes. Sanders later joined his family, including some of his grandchildren, for a walking tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic shrines.

The trip gave Sanders a moment on the world stage, putting him alongside priests, bishops, academics and two South American presidents at the Vatican conference.

Sanders has been at a disadvantage during his campaign against rival Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama’s former secretary of state, on issues of foreign policy. But Sanders was peppered with questions from academics and ecclesiastics during Vatican conference in a manner that might have been afforded a head of state.

The invitation to Sanders to address that session raised eyebrows when it was announced and touched off allegations that the senator lobbied for the invitation.

But the chancellor for the pontifical academy, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, said he invited Sanders because he was the only U.S. presidential candidate who showed deep interest in the teachings of Francis.

Once back home, Sanders was set to refocus on Tuesday’s pivotal presidential contest in New York, a state with a significant number of Catholic voters. Clinton holds a lead among the delegates who will determine the Democratic nominee, and Sanders is trying to string together a series of victories in upcoming contests to draw closer.

LA Film Critics: ‘Spotlight’ is best film

The high-octane “Mad Max: Fury Road” might have driven off with the most awards, but the Los Angeles Film Critics Association had another in mind for its top film of the year: “Spotlight,” the comparatively subdued drama about the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into sex abuses in the Catholic Church.

LAFCA is one of the highest-profile regional critics groups, but often strays from the mainstream in its annual awards choices. Only once in the past 20 years has the LAFCA Best Film winner gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

There was no clear favorite this year, and LAFCA honored a vast variety of some of the year’s best films further reinforcing the narrative that the Oscar race is still fairly undefined.

“Mad Max: Fury Road,” picked up three honors — the most for any film — including best director for George Miller, best cinematography, and best production design. But the dystopian rager, which the National Board of Review chose as their best film earlier this week, got second place to Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” which also won for its screenplay.

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s dark animated film “Anomalisa” also got multiple awards, including best animated film and best music/score for composer Carter Burwell, who was also recognized for “Carol.”

Acting awards were given similarly out of the box choices. Michael Fassbender won best actor for portraying the tech titan in “Steve Jobs,” while Charlotte Rampling picked up the award for best actress for her role in the marital drama “45 Years.”

Michael Shannon won best supporting actor for playing the predatory real estate broker in the housing bubble film “99 Homes,” and Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for her performance as the beguiling Artificial Intelligence creation in “Ex Machina.”

“Amy,” about the life of late pop star Amy Winehouse, won best documentary, and “Son of Saul” picked up best foreign film.

Director Ryan Coogler also won the LAFCA new generation award for “Creed,” a continuation of the Rocky Balboa saga.

“Carol,” Todd Haynes’ 1950s-set romance, which dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards this past week was practically shut out, aside from Burwell’s co-win for score and a host of runner-up awards, including director and production design.

The awards-friendly “Joy,” “The Revenant,” “The Danish Girl” and “Room” were nowhere to be found in LAFCA’s choices. Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” was recognized only for Ennio Morricone’s score as the runner-up to Burwell’s compositions.

Ultimately, the awards race continues to be wide open in nearly every category. The competition will heat up this week though, when nominees are announced for both the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes.

On the Web…


Kenosha native Mark Ruffalo delivers Oscar-worthy performance in acclaimed ‘Spotlight’

Is there any better team player in movies than Mark Ruffalo?

Whether running in a pack of superheroes, wrestlers or journalists, Ruffalo has a rare ability to slide seamlessly into an ensemble while nevertheless standing out for his talent in doing so. A year after the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native received an Academy Award nomination for his supporting performance as Olympic wrestler David Schutlz in Foxcatcher, the actor is again expected to be Oscar nominated for his key role as a dogged Boston Globe reporter in the newspaper procedural Spotlight.

“I’ve been at the right place at the right time for these two movies, and been able to disappear into the beauty of an ensemble, to serve something that’s bigger than any one particularly individual,” says Ruffalo. “They say something at a moment when the culture’s ready to hear it. A movie, if it speaks to people, it bubbles out of the culture and lands at a moment when we’re ready to have a discussion.”

Ruffalo, one of the movie industry’s most outspoken advocates for environmental (and other) causes, rarely turns down a conversation. (He began a recent interview eagerly imploring a reporter: “Talk to me!”) He has regularly poured his considerable energy into both political activism (most notably hydraulic fracturing) and passionate, striving characters, from the bipolar but exuberant father of Infinitely Polar Bear to his redemption-seeking music executive in Begin Again. He does enthusiasm well, on screen and off.

“I see a lot of light on the horizon. I call it ‘the sunlight revolution’ and it isn’t just about renewable energy,” says Ruffalo. “It’s about enlightening and bringing to light the wrongs of the past. Everywhere I look, I see this inquiry happening. I think people are conscious. I think people are sick of it. They want righteousness. They want to know that’s there’s justice in the world, and they tend to move toward that when given the choice.”

Spotlight, which expanded to theaters nationwide this weekend, dovetails with that mission. The film, directed by Tom McCarthy, is about the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting by the Boston Globe’s team of investigative reporters — named Spotlight — that uncovered the widespread sex abuse of Catholic Church priests and subsequent efforts to cover up abuse cases.

The cast, including Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams and Stanley Tucci, is uniformly excellent. And the film, one of the year’s most acclaimed, has been hailed for its verisimilitude in depicting the step-by-step digging of investigative journalism. Ruffalo, 47, plays Spotlight reporter Mike Rezendes.

“These are the people we want to celebrate. These are the people that deserve our admiration,” says Ruffalo. “You can’t have a free world without journalism, and it takes resources.”

To prepare for the role, Ruffalo spent time with Rezendes, observing him at work in the Globe newsroom and getting to know him at his home.

“As I told him, I said, ‘You found out things about me I didn’t want to know,’ says Rezendes. “He worked very hard and he got it.”

Rezendes, whom Ruffalo calls “a master” at his craft, continues to report on sex abuse and the church.

“The Catholic Church has taken some steps in the right direction, which I don’t think it would have taken were it not for us. But it has a ways to go,” says Rezendes.

Ruffalo, his movie-star counterpart, is more emphatic.

“I hope it’s a chance for the church to put people like Cardinal Law in jail,” says Ruffalo, who was raised Catholic. “That guy shouldn’t be living in a palace in the Vatican. He should just be in jail.”

Ruffalo, of course, is continuing his duties as a member (Bruce Banner/The Hulk) of the The Avengers, the last of which was the summer’s box-office behemoth Age of Ultron. He’ll be a part of a planned Thor sequel, and co-stars in next year’s magic caper Now You See Me 2.

But Ruffalo, who’s married with three children, is often busiest off-set. Earlier this month, he gathered other stars in Beverly Hills to protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s use of fracking in California.

“We live in this special time where you can’t hide anything anymore,” says Ruffalo. “All of the past wrongs are going to come to light.”

Vatican denies Kim Davis’ claim of support, highlights news of pope’s private meeting with gay couple

UPDATED:The “say it isn’t so” moment arrived a few days after Pope Francis departed from the United States following a six-day whirlwind tour that took him from Capitol Hill to soup kitchens.

The popularity of the first pope from the Americas soared to rock star heights during those days in late September, but then came news of the pope’s meeting with anti-gay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis.

Among many progressives, Francis’ star fell, only to begin to ascend again after the Vatican indicated the Davis’ team had greatly exaggerated the significance of her meeting with Francis and that he had given priority to a private meeting with a gay couple.

Davis, earlier this fall, went to jail for a few days for contempt of court. She was violating the U.S. Constitution, flouting federal court orders and ignoring her oath of office by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky.

The Vatican has distanced the pontiff from claims that the pope endorsed Davis’ stand on same-sex marriage. In a statement, the Vatican said the only “real audience” Francis had in Washington was with a small group that included a gay couple.

“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

“The only real audience granted by the pope at the nunciature was with one of his former students and his family,” Lombardi added. The man, Yayo Grassi, is an openly gay Argentine caterer who lives in Washington. In a video posted online, Grassi is shown entering the Vatican’s embassy, embracing his former teacher and introducing Francis to his longtime partner.

The disclosures changed the narrative of Davis’ encounter, making clear that Francis wanted another, more significant “audience” to come to light.

“It is heartening news that Pope Francis met privately with his friend and former student, Yayo Grassi, and his partner of 19 years, Iwan. It now not only appears that the pope’s encounter with Kim Davis has been mischaracterized, but that Pope Francis embraced these longtime friends,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin.

Davis’ spin

A three-time divorcée, Davis became a hero on the evangelical right for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay people, saying  that to do so would violate her Christian beliefs. The story of her encounter with the pope was trumpeted by her handlers as signaling Francis’ support for her actions.

“He held out his hand to her and she grasped his hand,” Davis attorney Mat Staver, co-founder of the right-wing law firm Liberty Counsel, told the press. “He asked her to pray for him and she said she would,” Staver said. “She asked the pope to pray for her and he said he would.”

That is the pope’s custom with everyone he meets.

Davis had been in Washington, D.C., to receive a hero’s welcome at the Values Voters Summit presented by the Family Research Council, an extremist group that denigrates LGBT people.

Staver said the pope thanked Davis for her courage, told her to “stay strong” and hugged her.

Francis was asked about conscientious objection during a news conference held on his plane departing for Rome. He told reporters he couldn’t know the details of particular cases, but that conscientious objection “is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”

LGBT civil rights advocate and Catholic Stephanie Kurcheck of Racine said she could admire conscientious objectors but she could not abide those who discriminate against others.

“Kim Davis is not like Gandhi or Martin Luther King,” she said. “She’s no different from the white racists who used religion to defend segregation. And I’m deeply disappointed in this pope for not seeing that.”

The Pope and Kim Davis PR nightmare needs more of the Golden Rule, less of the 9th Commandment

As a longtime LGBT activist with experience in dealing with the Catholic church, primarily related to the child abuse scandal here in the U.S., I have watched closely as the new pope brings hope in many Catholics, myself included, with his initial messages of “Who am I to judge” related to LGB people (he has made comments about trans people that are much more hostile hence the exclusion of the T).

His recent trip to the U.S was something I looked forward to, to the point of accepting an invitation to the White House for his arrival ceremony, which I attended with my partner and my 87-year-old devoutly Catholic aunt. And overall it went well, until Kim Davis (and her legal “counsel”) decided to drag her lies and disingenuousness into the debate.

At the trip began I was hopeful, despite the World Conference on Families rejecting LGBT participation or content. I knew many LGBT Catholics and allies who organized and spoke out prior to and during the historic trip.

I was heartened by the media including issues related to the LGBT community as they intersect with Catholicism, especially journalists like Maria Shriver who regularly brought up the “who am I to judge” comments and expressing hope they would result in some more discussion of our communities in the church.

Thomas Roberts put together a very nuanced and thoughtful panel interview that was aired in several segments on MSNBC about Catholics marginalized by the church, including LGBT people. As you can see from the photo I was a participant in this vibrant, diverse discussion.

And while some general references toward the end of the trip by the Pope to “traditional families” and “marriage tradition” (that serve as code that makes most LGBT people uncomfortable) I was, as a progressive who knows full well that change in the Catholic Church is a glacial process, pretty pleased with how it all went.

For example, out gay Catholic Mo Rocca participated in the mass in New York City. Dignity, GLAAD, the Family Acceptance Project, Fortunate Families and others spoke out and gathered in Philadelphia to discuss and organize.

Enter Kim Davis and her lies.

She may not be Catholic but I think the 9th Commandment is pretty universal. Kind of like the Golden Rule the Pope invoked when speaking to the U.S. Congress.

The firestorm began when David and her lawyers from the Liberty Council went all over the national media talking about a “private meeting” with the Pope, his blessing her and telling her to “stay strong,” and insinuating that he expressed support for her refusal to do her job.

The Vatican, to its own detriment, dragged its heels and gave non-committal responses to journalists as Davis and her team continued to wring out every bit of attention they could — without producing any evidence of a “meeting” — with any media outlet that expressed interest. Not enough media were responsible to note that just last week another fraud was perpetrated by Davis and her team about a rally that included grossly exaggerated information.

Finally, official reaction is coming late and only under tremendous pressure, and has made this into a public relations as well as religion and political story. Headlines now scream “Vatican Source: Pope Blindsided By Meeting With Controversial Kentucky Clerk.”

Ahem. One would think the Vatican would have a better communications team, but as I remember vividly from the abuse scandals, I am not that surprised. A tin ear to how the media — and the community — in the U. S. can mobilize is something I am familiar with.

So this is their dilemma now. The Vatican allowed Kim Davis to dominate the message and prompt reaction from LGBT Catholics groups that no longer jibes with what they are saying really happened.

So it turns out that Davis, like so many others during this trip, was able to shake the Pope’s had, be blessed and exchange a few words, which I am sure he said to others. Private meeting? Encouraging her for her conviction? I doubt he even knew who she was, frankly, and the whole think stinks of making a mountain of good PR out of a molehill of an interaction.

Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the head of the Holy See Press Office released a statement, which said in part:

Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.

Uh-huh. So while he expressed support of conscientious objection being an important right for all there are still more questions than answers.

In addition, the Pope’s reported denial of a meeting with the Dalai Lama is also bad optics, if that turns out to be true as well.

I’ll pray for some clarification in the meantime. And may Kim Davis and Liberty Counsel be duly judged for their disingenuous and dishonest behavior. I’ll call is un-Christ-like and leave it at that.

Who am I to judge?

Follow Cathy Renna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cathyrenna.

Editor’s note: This opinion piece first appeared on the Huffington Post at huffingtonpost.com and is published with the author’s permission.

Pope Francis says priests can absolve women of ‘sin of abortion’

Pope Francis declared on Sept. 1 that he is allowing all priests in the church’s upcoming Year of Mercy to absolve women of the “sin of abortion” if they repent with a “contrite heart. Francis said he is aware some feel they have no choice but to abort.

Francis, in letter published by the Vatican, said he has met many women bearing “the scar of this agonizing” decision to abort. He said God’s forgiveness cannot be denied to those who repent, and therefore he is giving all priests the power to absolve the sin in the Holy Year of Mercy running Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016.

The church views abortion as such as sin that, until now, a Catholic woman who wanted to repent for an abortion could not simply go to her local parish priest. Instead, her diocese’s bishop needed to delegate a priest, expert at dealing with such confessions, to hear the woman’s confession, or reserved for himself the decision on whether to absolve such women.

With the declaration, Francis is making it possible for women to bypass this formalized process in the approaching special Year of Mercy.

Francis made clear he isn’t downplaying the gravity of abortion for the church, which essentially views abortion as equivalent to murder. Instead, he applied his leadership vision of mercy to what is an intensely personal, often anguished choice for women.

“The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails,” Francis wrote in a letter to a Vatican official promoting the church’s evangelization efforts.

“Many others on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option.”

Francis drew on decades of pastoral experience with rank-and-file faithful in his native Argentina, including as Buenos Aires archbishop.

“I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that led them to this decision,” Francis said. “I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal.”

“I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision,” the pope wrote.

“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father,” the pope stressed.

He said that is why he has decided to concede to all priests “the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”

In a statement following the pope’s letter, the Vatican made clear that “forgiveness of the sin of abortion does not condone abortion nor minimize its grave effects. The newness is clearly Pope Francis’ pastoral approach.”

The Rev. Harry Knox, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said on Sept. 1, “Pope Francis’s decision to refocus the church’s energy towards mercy starts as a nice thought grounded in compassion, but quickly turns to more shame for women. The compassionate, pastoral approach is to recognize that women have abortions for many reasons. Neither the pope nor any of us can fully understand a woman’s decision because we do not stand in her shoes. What a woman really needs from her clergy is someone ready and able to have deep pastoral conversations about her decision. The pope should equip his priests with the tools to listen to a woman’s story instead of offering occasional absolution.”

At the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, executive director Jessica González-Rojas said, “What is significant here is that the pope, as a faith leader for millions, recognizes the need to talk about abortion, which one in three women will experience in her lifetime. Yet these comments fall short in reflecting the realities of women’s lives, and the viewpoints of many Catholics. Despite ongoing prohibition by church doctrine, Catholic Latinas support access to reproductive healthcare, with 90 percent of married Catholic Latinas using a modern form of contraception and a majority of Latino/a voters — including many Catholics, supporting access to safe and legal abortion services.

“Moreover, these statements perpetuate the notion that a person who has ended a pregnancy must be ashamed and contributes to culturally pervasive and deeply harmful abortion stigma. As an organization committed to Latina health and reproductive justice, we reject any attempt to impose judgement or shame on someone based on deeply personal decisions about health, pregnancy, and whether to become a parent.”

Editor’s note: This story will be updated with additional reaction to the announcement from the Vatican.

Vatican gets embroiled in Italy’s ‘banned books’ fray

The Vatican has gotten embroiled in a modern-day, secular version of the Index of Banned Books.

The Holy See press office had to set the record straight on Aug. 28 after the Italian media interpreted a formulaic blessing by Pope Francis of a lesbian children’s book publisher and her partner as an endorsement of their same-sex relationship.

Author Francesca Pardi had written to Francis in June complaining about how her books — some of which deal with children growing up with gay, single and divorced parents — had been maligned by Catholic groups and politicians.

A half-dozen of her titles were among the 49 titles that Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro recently banned from public preschools pending a review of their appropriateness because they deal with gender issues.

Thinking that Francis might appreciate the books’ inclusive message, Pardi sent him copies of her 30 titles, explaining that they had nothing to do with “gender theory” or even sex but merely conveyed a message of tolerance.

A few weeks ago, an official in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, Monsignor Peter Wells, sent her a note in Francis’ name thanking her for the gesture, blessing her and her partner, and encouraging her to continue with her “activities in the service to young generations and the diffusion of authentic human and Christian values.”

Pardi says she didn’t take the letter by any means to be a papal endorsement of her lifestyle — she and her partner have four children together — but the Italian media interpreted it as such, prompting the Vatican to step in.

In a statement, the Vatican’s deputy spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the letter made clear that Francis was encouraging Pardi to pursue activities consistent with Christian values.

“The blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was directed to the person, not at any possible teachings that are not in line with the doctrine of the church on gender theory, which hasn’t changed a bit as the Holy Father has repeated even recently,” he said.

One of the “banned” titles, “Little Egg,” tells the story of an egg about to hatch that goes out in search of a family, and encountering a variety of different ones — two mothers, two fathers, single parents, bi-racial parents, “traditional” parents — concludes that any one of them would be great.

The review of the “banned books” by Venice’s mayor sparked outrage among gay and human rights groups, with sometimes Venice resident Elton John calling Brugnaro “boorishly bigoted.”

Venice’s review harked back to the Vatican’s own Index of Prohibited Books, the 16th century list of books deemed heretical by the Roman Inquisition. The Vatican in 1966 officially removed the ban from its law books.

Pope and Congress: Francis is certain to challenge lawmakers

A political pope is sure to seize his opportunity when he addresses a political body. So both Democrats and Republicans are looking forward to Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress next month — and bracing for them, too.

There is genuine giddiness among Catholic Democrats — many of whom have long been uncomfortably at odds with their church over abortion rights — about the pope’s strong emphasis on addressing poverty and the environment.

“I’ve been waiting for this pope all my life,” said liberal Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern, 57. “I find him inspirational and I know a lot of other people do, not just Catholics.”

The pope comes to the Capitol on Sept. 24, where he will be the first pontiff to ever address a joint meeting of Congress. He will also appear on a West Front balcony to greet the public.

There’s little doubt that Francis, who in a speech last month in Bolivia spoke out against unchecked capitalism before an assemblage of groups representing the poor, will seek to send a similar message to lawmakers representing the richest nation on earth.

“Whether it’s climate change or hunger or taking care of the poor, the Pope’s message is really the embodiment of what Catholic social teaching has been about, historically,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who traveled to Rome to witness the pope’s installation two years ago.

The pope was, of course, invited by the most powerful Catholic in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who will be accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, another Catholic, in familiar seats behind Francis on the dais. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, also a Catholic, will occupy a prominent seat on her party’s side of the aisle.

For joint addresses like the State of the Union or even the recent appearance before Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, partisan politics is unavoidable. One side will jump to their feet while the other will sit on their hands. In September, however, most hope and anticipate such grandstanding can be avoided.

“You will not know it’s the Congress,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

There’s also no glad-handing the pope as he walks down the center aisle, unlike the annual ritual in which lawmakers such as Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, commandeer a seat to press the flesh. The pontiff is expected to keep his hands clasped as if in prayer.

A top adviser to Francis visited Washington in April and said the pope will speak “frankly but friendly” in his U.S. trip.

“Even the Congress people can listen to other voices, to counsels, to advisers,” said Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, according to Religion News Service. “The one who receives advice commits less errors and is not mistaken. The one who does not like to listen to advice will have a lot of trouble. So I think the Congress will receive very well the advice (of the pope) — even if there are some things that will not be comfortable.”

Francis’ recent encyclical chastised policymakers across the globe for inaction on the environment as the skies warm and the oceans are ravaged by overfishing and pollution.

“We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth,” the pope wrote. “The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes.”

In September, such warnings could be seen as a challenge directed to a Congress populated by GOP skeptics of proposals to reduce greenhouse gases like new curbs on coal-fired power plants.

“You’re always stronger in terms of credibility when you stay closer to your church doctrine and church teaching and also what the Catholic Church has been about,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. “Many people take a lot of pride, whether you’re Catholic or not, in terms of focus on the poor, focus on helping the most vulnerable.”

Francis, however, is not shy about expanding his reach beyond a traditional role as he leads the church in a rapidly changing century.

“He’s a very different pope. He’s defined himself in a very different way,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., another Catholic. “He’s talking about outcomes. We’ve got to work on means.”

The recent encyclical also reiterated the church’s longtime teachings on abortion.

“How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?” Francis wrote.

Whatever the pope’s message, lawmakers in both parties hope it serves as a salve — however temporary — to a body that too often sees issues in black and white and seeks partisan advantage wherever it can be found.

“The teachings of the Catholic Church don’t fit neatly into either the Democratic or the Republican Party,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill. “And I think that leads oftentimes to a fight on both sides over — now that we have a very popular pope — who is going to turn that to their political advantage. I hope that we won’t see that.”

Pope Francis’ speech to Congress to be broadcast on Jumbotrons outside Capitol

Pope Francis’ historic speech to Congress in September will be viewed by tens of thousands on the U.S. Capitol grounds and beyond in a landmark event to rival any presidential inauguration or State of the Union address.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the pontiff’s Sept. 24 address to a joint meeting of Congress will be broadcast live from the West Front, allowing the public in the shadow of the Capitol to watch along with those in the House chamber.

Jumbotrons, typically used for Memorial Day and July 4th celebrations as well as for presidential inaugurations, will be set up on the West Front of the Capitol.

The speech will mark the first time the head of the world’s Roman Catholics addresses Congress and the chamber is expected to be packed with lawmakers, members of the president’s Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and the diplomatic corps, similar to attendance for a State of the Union address by the president.

Demand for tickets to the visitors’ gallery in the House chamber is high, especially since lawmakers are limited to one guest ticket per office.

Boehner said that after the speech, the pontiff wants to make a brief appearance on the West Front.

“The visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. Capitol is a historic moment for the country,” Boehner said in a statement. He added: “We look forward to welcoming Pope Francis and Americans from all walks of life to our Capitol” on Sept. 24.

The outspoken pope is expected to challenge Democrats and Republicans on abortion, immigration and climate change, the issue of his recent encyclical.

During the pontiff’s nine-day visit to the U.S. and Cuba, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama and celebrate Mass in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

Boehner, who is Catholic, invited the pontiff to address Congress in March 2014, and the Vatican accepted the invitation in February.

Pope Francis to issue encyclical on devastating climate change driven by greed

Anxiety has gripped American conservatives over Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on the environment. So much so that you might think a pope had never before blamed fossil fuels for global warming. Or accused energy companies of hoarding the Earth’s resources at the expense of the poor. Or urged the rich to consume less and share more.

But several of Francis’ immediate predecessors have done just that, inspired by the Bible itself — raising the question of what all the fuss is about. Why would U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic who says he loves the pope, urge Francis to “leave science to the scientists” and stop talking about global warming? And why would conservative Catholic commentators attack the Vatican for hosting the U.N. secretary-general at a climate conference?

It turns out that environmental issues are particularly vexing for the Catholic Church, especially in the United States. They carry implications for Big Business, often with ties to wealthy Catholics, as well as for the world’s growing population, which brings up questions of birth control. For the religious right, the Vatican’s endorsement of the U.N. alarm about global warming amounts to an endorsement of the U.N. agenda to give women access to contraception and abortion.

How Francis deals with population growth as it affects the environment is one of the key questions that will be answered when the encyclical is released June 18.

Despite such divisive issues, popes in recent decades have not shied from framing ecological concerns in moral terms, given that in the Bible itself God places mankind in the Garden of Eden with the explicit instructions to not only “till” the ground but to also “keep it.”

Recent popes have made clear that human activity is largely to blame for the environmental degradation that is threatening the Earth’s ecosystems. They have demanded urgent action by industrialized nations to change their ways and undergo an “ecological conversion” to prevent the poor from paying for the sins of the rich.

Some have even made their points in encyclicals, the most authoritative teaching document a pope can issue.

Take one of St. John Paul II’s annual messages for the World Day of Peace:

“The gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related greenhouse effect has now reached crisis proportions as a consequence of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs,” John Paul wrote. “Industrial waste, the burning of fossil fuels, unrestricted deforestation, the use of certain types of herbicides, coolants and propellant: all of these are known to harm the atmosphere and environment. The resulting meteorological and atmospheric changes range from damage to health to the possible future submersion of low-lying lands.”

The year was 1990, a quarter century ago.

Before him there was Pope Paul VI. In his 1967 encyclical, Popularum Progresso (Development of Peoples), Paul wrote that while creation is for man to use, the goods of the Earth are meant to be shared by all, not just the rich.

“No one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lack the bare necessities of life,” Paul wrote nearly a half-century ago.

And then there was Pope Benedict XVI, dubbed the “green pope” because he took concrete action to back up his strong ecological calls: Under his watch, the Vatican installed photovoltaic cells on the roof of its main auditorium, a solar cooling unit for its main cafeteria and joined a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions.

“The fact that some states, power groups and energy companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries,” Benedict wrote in his 2009 encyclical Charity in Truth. “The international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future.”

In that encyclical, the German theologian, however, addressed the population issue by denouncing mandatory birth control policies and noting that even populous countries have emerged from poverty thanks to the talents of their people, not their numbers. At the same time, though, he stressed “responsible procreation” — a theme Francis is likely to take up himself given that he has already said Catholics need not reproduce “like rabbits.”

So what is so new about Francis’ encyclical?

First, no pope has dedicated an entire encyclical to ecological concerns. And no pope has cited the findings of the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change in a major document, as Francis is expected to do. Francis, history’s first Latin American pope, will also be bringing the point of view of the “Global South” to a social teaching document of the church, which is in itself new.

But on the whole, the church’s environmental message has been articulated for years, though it has gotten lost in other issues.

“To be honest, we have been talking about this but not with enough emphasis,” said the Rev. Agostino Zampini Davies, the Argentine theological adviser to CAFOD, the development agency of the Catholic Church of England and Wales.

Zampini Davies recently made a power-point presentation to the church’s global Caritas aid agencies outlining what each pope and bishops’ conference has said about the environment for the past half-century, a remarkable compilation that could have saved Francis’ ghost-writers time and effort in drafting the encyclical.

Zampini noted that the 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a massive undertaking by the Vatican to pull all the church’s social teachings in one book, gave scant attention to the environment — “a missed opportunity” Zampini Davies said that Francis is now correcting with an even more authoritative document.

Amid the alarm that Francis will go far beyond what past popes have said, U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl recently addressed a conference of business and church leaders on how sustainable actions can drive the economic growth needed to lift people out of poverty

“The teaching of Pope Francis and his efforts to address the environment are in harmony with those of his predecessors,” he insisted.