Pope Francis places priority on evangelization

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Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addressed more than 300 people at Georgetown University March 27 about the first four years of Pope Francis’ papacy.

John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, moderated the event. He asked Archbishop Pierre how to make a case for the priorities the pope seems to have for peace, the poor and creation.

Archbishop Pierre said the pope’s first priority is to evangelize. He doesn't work like a typical political leader, the archbishop said.

“The pope is the leader of the Catholic Church and wants the church to be faithful to its mission to evangelize,” he said. “He’s always asking us to be faithful to the Gospel, give priority to the poor and respect life in all dimensions.”

Carr asked what qualities the pope looks for in a bishop. Archbishop Pierre joked that the identity of the figure of a bishop should be perfect but the pope wants pastors who are first men of God and have the main quality of being pastoral.

Archbishop Pierre’s talk was followed by a panel discussion, which included Kim Daniels, appointed by Pope Francis to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications in 2016; Maria Teresa Gaston, managing director of the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at the Duke Divinity School; and Kenneth Hackett, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See from 2013 until January 2017. He previously served as CEO and president of Catholic Relief Services.

Daniels gave a numbers assessment of the Francis Factor, sharing that 87 percent of U.S. Catholics have a favorable opinion of Pope Francis. For those with no religious affiliation, that figure was 71 percent. It started out at 39 percent.

“Pope Francis is reaching people who otherwise aren’t engaging with the church,” she said. The pope is bringing Catholic teaching into the most important public conversations by bringing attention to the poor and their suffering, but also bringing them into the conversation.

When Carr asked the panel what needs work, Gaston said she wants to understand the economic models that reflect the Gospel.

When people ask Hackett about the impact of the Holy Father’s visit to the United States, he tells them, it made Catholics in the United States and others feel good about their religion.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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