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To walk with Francis

· The Cardinal Archbishop of Washington on the Holy Father’s visit to the United States ·

We all look forward with faith-filled joy and enthusiasm to Pope Francis’ visit to Washington to begin his first apostolic journey to the United States. The theme for his visit to this archdiocesan Church is “Share the Joy, Walk with Francis,” as vividly reflected in our preparation for this time of grace.

Extensive educational and resource materials, including homily guides, have been produced to help people in our schools and parishes learn more about who the Pope is, his role as Peter in the Church today, and his message of Christ’s love for us. Meanwhile, a vast evangelization effort is underway in our neighborhoods. Also, our archdiocesan social media has been particularly engaged on Facebook, Twitter and other outlets, allowing a wide range of people to share their excitement through words and pictures.

To show our solidarity with the Holy Father in anticipation of his visit, and to say to him that we embrace the Gospel message and try to live it, the Archdiocese of Washington has launched a special initiative known as the Walk with Francis Pledge. A multitude of people of all faiths and backgrounds have already joined together to participate and also spread the word via #WalkwithFrancis. Now we invite our sisters and brothers in Rome and New York and Philadelphia and Buenos Aires and throughout the whole Church to visit the website WalkWithFrancis.org and join us in this outreach through prayer, charitable service, or action to help build up the kingdom of God in our midst.

Another exciting venture for these times is the “YouServe” Papal Visit Video Contest sponsored by the Archdiocese. Here people have been invited to share their faith witness through videos showing how they are answering the Holy Father’s call to serve others. In addition, we have held competitions to design the altar for the Papal Mass and for the special choirs that will sing at the liturgy.

All of our preparation has been a way for us to share the joy of the Gospel as we accept Pope Francis’ invitation to walk together in our pilgrim journey. It has been already a moment of grace.

It is an enormous privilege always to host the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ and this honor is made even greater with the historic celebration of the first Mass of Canonization in this country at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception facing the campus of The Catholic University of America. The canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra, the extraordinary Franciscan priest who evangelized California, will be an inspiration for all of us to answer the call to be Spirit-filled missionary disciples who bring to others the Gospel love of Jesus Christ.

At this Eucharistic liturgy, and throughout his trip to the United States, Pope Francis will see the face of the world — a diversity of men and women from all backgrounds and languages who have gathered around him in harmony. As a sign of this diversity and the universality of the Church, the Canonization Mass will largely be celebrated in Spanish, the native language of Blessed Junípero and millions of people in the Americas, including the large Latino community in the Washington area.

Throughout his pontificate, our Holy Father has worked to foster this harmony throughout society. Speaking in a simple, inviting way to the hearts of people, he urges us time and again to see one another not as rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.

In a particular way here in Washington, home to our national government, Pope Francis’ visit presents a blessed opportunity for people to set-aside their differences, political and cultural. Coming to us as a pastor, we can anticipate his words of outreach and renewal for our entire human family. Perhaps this moment will inspire public leaders and people throughout society to more often overcome division and indifference to seek the common good, especially to protect and enhance the lives and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable.

The Holy Father offers a beautiful vision — a way of life that involves mercy and compassion, hunger and thirst for righteousness, patience and forgiveness. It is the Good News of Jesus Christ. People are drawn to this and his presence here is sure to bear fruit for many years to come as we take his words to heart and go out to care for one another, bringing mercy and hope and the joy of being loved.

The legacy of Pope Francis’ visit, I believe, will be a strengthening of faith among those already active in Church life, an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, a return to the practice of the faith by some who have drifted away, a renewed openness by non-Catholics and non-believers to the message of the Gospel and an invitation to all to draw closer to God. As the Gospel message that our Holy Father brings radiates throughout our entire society, we should better be able to work together to realize more effectively a truly good, just and beautiful world — our common home.

Donald Wuerl
Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington

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St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 20, 2018

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