Pope Francis is in the city Pope John Paul II called the Capitol of the World. He’s getting a New York welcome ahead of a jam packed day itinerary tomorrow that will stop traffic in its tracks. He’ll address the United Nations and mourn those lost in the attacks of September 11, meet school kids in Harlem and cruise through Central Park to celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.
This after making history in Washington. Pope Francis is the first Pontiff ever to address a joint meeting of Congress on immigration, environmental legislation and a blistering condemnation of the arms trade. Francis challenged the deeply partisan Congress to end polarization and use its power to heal the “open wounds” of a planet torn by hatred, greed, poverty and pollution. He invoked the golden rule to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. Father John Bambrick told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that he was not surprised at the Pope’s call to abolish the death penalty.
“All of the modern popes haves called for the abolishment of the death penalty, so John Paul II and Benedict XVI have both said that there is no place for it in modern society. We have other means of rehabilitating people. What really did surprise me is that after that, which was we ought to be rehabilitating criminals and giving them a second chance,” said Bambrick.
When asked about how the Pope’s message to Congress fits into his larger message, Bambrick said that Pope Francis is calling on everyone to live in solidarity and to be with one another. He said that Pope Francis said that God has called on everyone to be friends with one another and to bond with one another.
Bambrick also said that he hopes Pope Francis’ compassion towards refugees and focus on income inequality has changed the way congress handles those issues.
“You saw in the faces of Congress today that wrapped attention,” he said. “He held them from the moment he said ‘the home of the brave and the land of the free’ all the way to when he said, ‘God bless America.’ He held their attention. They cried, you saw members of Congress openly weeping to having tears in their eyes and the excitement and the applause that he was met with, especially when he said the golden rule. That surprised me. He invokes Jesus’ very words and the whole Congress rose to their feet and thunderous applause.”
While 20 percent of Americans identify themselves as Catholics, the number of people attending Sunday Mass, getting married by the church and baptisms have dropped. Bambrick said that he hopes Pope Francis will help bring people back to the church. He said that the Pope is bringing the “beautiful message” of gospel to people.
During his visit to Washington D.C., Bambrick said that Pope Francis praised the courage of Catholic Bishops in dealing with sexual abuse. He said, “Pope Francis is calling out the best in us, what we have done right, and then that way pricking our conscience in what we haven’t done right and what we can do to further the common good, to do better.” The message is to continue to do good, and to build on the good that exists in the world.