There is no denying that Pope Francis has proven to be a significant global voice, and not just for Catholics. The Church’s 266th pope has become known for his gestures of humility and compassion toward people from all walks of life. Simultaneously, his unwavering statements on universal issues like poverty, climate change and social justice have captivated political, social and religious leaders around the globe.
The itinerary of Francis’ inaugural visit to North America reflects his influence both inside and outside of the Church. After calling for full religious freedom in Havana, addressing Congress in Washington and holding an interfaith service at the 9/11 Museum in New York, Francis will finally arrive in Philadelphia for the city’s first papal visit since 1979.
In August, amid buzz from the student body, Penn announced the suspension of normal operations on Friday to accommodate expected travel and logistical challenges. Last week, University operations issued an update confirming the cancellation of University-sponsored events on Friday and the release of non essential staff from work obligations. With people flocking to Philadelphia from around the region and the globe, city officials have acknowledged that the number of expected visitors this weekend is difficult to accurately predict.
While we may appreciate a three-day weekend to study, sleep or avoid the bustle, thousands of Penn students, faculty and staff will be making their way downtown to experience Pope Francis’ public mass firsthand on Sunday. Hundreds of others, from all faith backgrounds, will be volunteering during the World Meeting of Families. Though a variety of outlooks toward the papal visit exist on campus, there is no denying the historic nature of this occasion for the city.
As part of Penn’s interreligious community, we encourage all students to take a large step back from the speculative and logistical scramble surrounding the pope’s upcoming visit. What does Francis’ presence mean for our community, and what might we gain from hearing what he has to say to us? “Serve people, not ideas,” Francis urged during his recent mass in Havana. The pope’s human-centric message makes him a figure whose speech and actions can be especially meaningful to people of all backgrounds. Moreover, the pope’s visit provides a key opportunity for us to think about how we can more deeply consider faith and spirituality as we discuss the common issues that face our community and our world.
SAM MURRAY and AFRAH MOHAMMAD are a College junior and senior respectively. They are co-chairs of PRISM and can be reached at email@example.comComments powered by Disqus
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