Dear Pope Francis, Come to America!

EDITORIAL: It’s our fervent hope that you will venture further afield in our nation to experience the beauty, faith and warmth of America and its people.

Pope Francis boards a plane from FCO airport in Rome.
Pope Francis boards a plane from FCO airport in Rome. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / EWTN)

Late last month, it was reported that Pope Francis is contemplating a visit to the U.S. in late September to attend the opening of the next general assembly of the United Nations.

In light of this news, the Catholic faithful of America would like to deliver a heartfelt collective appeal to the Holy Father: If you can indeed fit such a papal trip into your busy schedule, please do visit us this fall! 

And if possible, please don’t confine your U.S. visit to the U.N.’s headquarters in New York City, which falls within the same geographical confines as your earlier trip here to attend the 2015 World Meeting of Families. 

It’s our fervent hope that you will venture further afield in our nation to experience the beauty, faith and warmth of America and its people — and to encounter a sampling of the multitude of ways our local Church is living out your call for the creative and forward-looking evangelization of a hurting modern world that’s in desperate need of the salvific love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

One of the guaranteed fruits of such a visit would be to affirm the affection that most Catholic Americans have toward Pope Francis. Indeed, according to a Pew Research Center poll released last month, 75% of U.S. Catholics view him favorably, as he moves into the 12th year of his pontificate.

Significantly, it would also provide a much-needed opportunity to dispel inaccuracies about the U.S. Church that have been propagated in Rome by some papal advisers, such as Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro. Such misunderstandings have also been fostered by the caricatures of faithful American Catholics that our own nation’s secular press routinely propagates. 

A recent example is an April 30 Associated Press article, titled “‘A step back in time’: America’s Catholic Church sees an immense shift toward the old ways.” The article falsely conflates contemporary U.S. expressions of orthodox belief and worship with a hidebound and backward-facing traditionalism. As a result, it’s guilty of a number of howlers, such as mischaracterizing the Catholic campus apostolate Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) as “a traditionalist organization.”

Given the predominance of such reporting, it’s small wonder that Pope Francis reportedly commented last year that the Church in the U.S. “has a very strong reactionary attitude,” as the AP article pointedly notes.

In fact, as the Holy Father will be delighted to discern if he is able to travel more extensively here, nothing could be further from the truth. FOCUS itself is a case in point. A visit to any of the 193 campuses where youthful FOCUS missionaries are in place would provide an opportunity to see how they are drawing college students toward Christ

FOCUS also assists those who respond to this call by providing them with a variety of opportunities to serve others, including through missions to other countries in support of the poor and spiritually impoverished who live there. It’s hard to imagine an approach more in line with the vision of Pope Francis than that.

Similarly, a stop in any major U.S. metropolitan area’s inner city will communicate how the Catholic institutions of that urban area are mobilizing to fulfill the Christian imperative — and the generous American tradition — of welcoming the stranger through programs to assist the recent flood of new immigrants, delivered alongside of the numerous existing programs that extend help to other marginalized members of the communities. 

Another of Pope Francis’ central priorities has been the formation of holy and pastoral priests, men possessing “the smell of their sheep,” as he colorfully likes to put it. So a visit to a thriving archdiocesan seminary, such as St. John Vianney in Denver, would be in order. 

Less than 30 years old and located on the campus of the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization, the seminary tangibly conforms to the Holy Father’s reminder, in his newly released letter to parish priests, that “we will never become a synodal and missionary Church unless parish communities are distinguished by the sharing of all the baptized in the one mission of proclaiming the Gospel.” It does this by offering programs for permanent deacons and for laypersons, in conjunction with its central purpose of forming new priestly pastors.

To employ a particularly American metaphor, a papal visit would represent an unparalleled spiritual doubleheader for our nation in 2024. That’s because if Pope Francis is able to make the trip, he will arrive at a time when U.S. Catholics will already be basking in the spiritual glow of the three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which culminates in the July 17-21 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. No finer conclusion to the Revival could ever be imagined.

So please, Holy Father, do come to America if you can. We’d love to welcome you once again!