Got questions about the pope? He’s got answers

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When Pope Francis addresses the United Nations during his visit to the United States, millions of people will watch excerpts on their smartphones, computers and televisions. And when reporters need to analyze the significance of what he says, Father Christopher Pollard, pastor of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, will be available to take questions.

Journalists who call the Communications Office in the Arlington Diocese looking for a source will be referred to Father Pollard because he has a unique background. Father Pollard, who earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago and a master's in catechetics from the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, worked at the United Nations headquarters in New York City for three years as an attaché to the permanent observer of the Holy See.

"I like to call myself the 'grammar man' of the office,'" Father Pollard quipped. From 2009 to 2012, he worked at the office with the nuncio, editing correspondence and homilies, helping with the website, proofreading press releases in English and other duties.

After his stint in the office of the permanent observer, Father Pollard was reassigned to St. John the Beloved. As pastor, he's seen the impact of the "Francis effect," even on non-Catholics. Recently, he went to a coffee shop with a large group of parishioners after morning Mass, and struck up a conversation with a non-Catholic.

She talked about how "she loves Pope Francis," Father Pollard said. When he told her that the group had a large cardboard cutout of the pope they were going to take pictures with, "She blurted out, 'I'm coming,' because she wanted to take a picture next to Pope Francis. And she's not even Catholic."

Father Pollard believes a lot of the interest from the general public comes from the pope's unique style. "He's been firing on all cylinders in a way which is unscripted, but probably very deliberate in a way, that he's trying to reach out to anyone and everyone," Father Pollard said.

Father Pollard said that though the pope is popular, he may be misrepresented in some media outlets or there may be some protestors during the visit. He suggests that when the pope is in the United States, Catholics take the attitude of St. Peter in prison. Even when the prison guards were speaking poorly of Jesus, the saint saw it as an opportunity to bring Christ to them.

"Be joyful about the Catholic Church being on the mind of the world," Father Pollard said.

Every Catholic, he said, can help make sure the pope is received well and "pray for him."

Stachyra Lopez can be reached at mstachyralopez@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015

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