RELIGION

Father Danzi on the “Francis Effect”

Father Rocco Danzi, St. Peter’s University Chaplain, joins NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams to discuss Pope Francis’ UN address.

Pope Francis spoke just before a special meeting to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, many of which aligned with his views on poverty and the environment. When asked if the Pope is trying to have an effect on the vote, Father Danzi said, “Absolutely.” “His latest encyclical really invites all of us as a world community to be concerned for the environment,” he said. “How this concern really meshes with with his concern for the poor, the suffering, but we really all of us have to be aware of taking care of this great creation of the earth.”

He thinks he’ll have an “environmental impact” if you will. “It’s kind of the Francis effect as he travels through this part of our country, but throughout the world,” Danzi said. “All sorts of people are listening, and his passion or great love and concern is I think empowering people to rethink many things and certainly how we’re caring for our environment.”

Pope Francis was influential in America’s easing of relations with Cuba and the Iran Nuclear deal which he called “proof of the potential of political good will.” When asked if other Pope’s had this same kind of impact, he said Pope John Paul II had a similar effect. “I would say looking back at Pope John Paul II, and early in his papacy, the effect that his words and even his presence in Poland have to bring about so much political change and greater freedom and justice for the people and we we see this in Francis,” he said.”

Danzi says that what he thinks impresses the world, and certainly his, is his humility and his inviting others to pray for him as he prays for them and they feel his faith. In the 1970s the Jesuits were involved in a social activist movement called the liberation theology where there was a culture of not just talking about problems, but trying to stop oppression. Danzi says the Jesuit training has come into play even before then. “The reductions in South America where the Jesuits are trying to make a safe haven so that European powers wouldn’t take indigenous people and put them into slavery and bondage. He is for the poor. He is for the suffering. This is part of our nation’s Jesuit training and he really invites everyone into that mission of love,” he said.

When asked if he thinks Pope Francis’ effect will translate to parishes around the world Danzi said, “I think we’re already beginning to see that. In talking to many priest friends of mine in the Newark Archdiocese and Brooklyn, we’re beginning to see people wanting to reconnect with their Catholic faith. We’re seeing our young people, certainly at St. Peter’s University, so excited by Pope Francis and this is really helping us grow so many of our programs in campus ministry and at the university. He’s inspiring them and part of our nation and inspiration.”