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Give Me To Drink: Reflection by Chris McDonnell on Papal Visit to US
Pope Francis Visits Cuba & USA
The next few days will see blanket coverage in the news media of the visit of Francis to the United States, a country he has not visited.
With a carefully choreographed journey, he will meet many people, ordinary people and dignitaries, the poor and the disadvantaged, no doubt providing headaches for the Security agencies.
His visit to North America begins in Cuba, a country whose recent emergence from the years of the Cold War is credited by many to his direct intervention between the diplomacy of Cuba and the US.
In December 2014, Time magazine noted that,
"In a 15-minute speech announcing that the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba, Obama said that the pope helped spur the change and personally thanked him. The Vatican then released a statement noting that the Vatican hosted delegations from both countries in October to negotiate the deal after Pope Francis had written to both leaders."
Now he goes in person to visit both countries.
His continual message since he became the Bishop of Rome has been one of mercy and compassion. The woman at the Well with the Lord and their discussion of the need to drink is a significant passage in the Gospel in so many ways. That the conversation took place at all, was amazing. That it centred on a story of water- "Give me to drink" - is still a fresh reality in the way that this pope deals with people. His relationship with the poor and the disadvantaged, those, who through race or colour, are subject to societal rejection, has been an example to us all.
The societal contrasts in the US are still considerable, the cities still places where tension can flare if something is mishandled, where poverty and inequality are there for all to see.
How will Francis approach the US hierarchy on such issues? How will they respond to his direct and forthright way of speaking? And after it is all over, after he has spoken to both Houses of Congress and addressed the United Nations, what will be the legacy of his days in the United States?
In the words of Argentinian theologian Carlos Galli,
"To understand Francis, you don't need labels. You need to understand where he comes from."
Just as the Church, since his arrival in the See of Peter, has experienced a new way of being Church, so will the people of the US be changed by his being amongst them. In his first year he managed the front cover of both Time magazine and Rolling Stone. We move on from there.
In the coming Year of Mercy, may the mercy he has shown us by his example become embedded in our actions and attitudes.
You can follow the papal visit at papalvisit.americamedia.org
Pope Francis Prayer Card CTPC87-P