Deccan Chronicle | September 27, 2015
Pope Francis’ conquest of the United States, from Congress in Washington through to the 9/11 memorial and right down to the pop concert and sports arena at Madison Square Garden in New York was based as ever on his championing the cause of the poor and the newly displaced in West Asia and Africa. His voice resonated at the UN headquarters too, where over 150 national leaders are to assemble in the coming days. More than a revered spiritual leader of a billion-plus Catholics, Pope Francis has become the voice of the conscience of the world, particularly at a time of an unprecedented refugee crisis.
Over 500 legislators gave him a memorable reception in Congress in a country in which prejudices against Catholics has a history of not-so-long-ago vintage; John F. Kennedy had to promise in the 1960s that he would not follow Vatican edicts in matters of state. The first pontiff to address Congress, he won them all over by speaking plain truths on the rich having to look after those not as fortunate, on the right to life, on abolishing the death penalty, and on a collective responsibility to Earth. He dared to go where others fear to tread, including stating his opposition to same-sex marriage as opposed to his lauding of family values, and against the anti-immigration wave in the US.
The "Pope of the Poor" could drive straight from the magisterial splendour of Capitol Hill to a humble church to eat with the homeless. And yet, beyond all his great gestures as the first Jesuit pontiff, who hails from a sect with extreme vows of poverty, what resonates most is his representing everyone’s cause as exemplified in his call for invoking the principle of international law and equality among nations. Even in his pleas for action on climate change and poverty he took care to insist he was not anti-business. His advocacy for creating conditions for a better life for everyone is not easy to achieve, but his saying it lends it greater credibility.
At the UN and in the US, the Pope spoke of every concern of humanity, tackling subjects from the spiritual to the temporal, from the political to charity and piety. One man with such an estimable record in the service of the poor may not change the world in a day, but his voice sounded so sincere that it becomes possible to conclude the world is at least willing now to spare a thought for the poor and refugees, and, may be, resolve to do a little less to satiate a "selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity". The anointed stage is now open at the UN summit for the politicians of the world.