Pope Francis has announced that when he comes to the United States in September he wants to meet with homeless people, immigrants and people who are incarcerated.
He shouldn’t have problems finding thousands of people on the bottom rungs of America’s socioeconomic ladder and more falling from the mddiel class to that level or worse daily. The pope is expected to arrive Sept. 22 in the U.S. from Cuba, where he hopes to add to the new relationship between the two longtime adversaries.
His visits will include stops in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. Let’s hope that U.S. officials don’t get to handpick for the pope the homeless people, men and women who are behind bars and immigrants who will talk with him.
No doubt what they would say would be well-scripted. Instead the pope should get out of his Popemobile, lose the entourage and walk the streets of the nation’s capital, the barrios and the ’hoods of New York City and Philadelphia.
He should look under bridges, in parks and in distressed areas where homeless people have set up camps. Pope Francis should go to the homeless shelters in those major American cities, make unscheduled stops at city, county, state and federal lockups, where he should talk freely with U.S. citizens about being in a country that incarcerates more of its residents than any other nation on earth.
He should ask them about their families and opportunities they have lost. Pope Francis should talk at these jails with people who have been rounded up as illegal immigrants slated for deportation.
He would get an earful in those cities, Kansas City or anywhere in America, where the homeless, immigrants and those behind bars are part of the landscape in this land of plenty. If he has trouble finding folks in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, he can certainly come to Kansas City, where I’d be more than happy to take him to places he needs to see and to people who’d be more than willing to talk to the pontiff.
Pope Francis, the first pope from the New World, is well-known for giving voice to the voiceless and reaching out to the homeless and underserved.
The question afterward for the pope is, “Now that he knows, what does he plan to do about it?” Prayer is OK, but it is far from enough.