A pope for all people

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Hold on to your pew, because in just a few days Pope Francis will arrive in the United States for his long-awaited papal tour. Catholics and non-Catholics alike have been attracted to his words and acts of kindness and are looking forward to finally seeing him in action.

"I'm just glad that he is coming," said Father Donald T. Rooney, pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg. "I think it's going to mean a lot to the people to see him up close."

Catholics in the Arlington Diocese will have their best opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father when he comes to Washington Sept. 22-24. Many of the priests from the diocese, including Father Rooney, will join Pope Francis in concelebrating the Mass for the canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra Sept. 23.

Father Rooney also has been invited to attend an interreligious prayer service at the site of Ground Zero in New York City.

"I think it will comfort a lot of people," said Father Rooney, who serves as president of the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers.

"(Pope Francis) tends to focus wherever he goes on healing," Father Rooney said. "It is appropriate for him to visit this place of such great tragedy."

The interreligious aspect of the event is also in keeping with Pope

Francis' passion for interfaith dialogue. In June, Father Rooney had the opportunity to meet the pope with a small group of Catholic and Buddhist religious. During the meeting, Pope Francis spoke of a need for continued collaboration between people of all faiths.

"We have to come together to sow the seeds of peace," said Pope Francis. "This is very important."

Father Rooney, who was able to exchange a few words with the Holy Father during that meeting, described him as very warm and gracious. He is looking forward to seeing how the pope connects with the large crowds in the United States and believes Pope Francis will continue to communicate his message of peace throughout his travels on the East Coast.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015