News and Updates: Claudio M. Burgaleta, SJ discusses the hope for a more welcoming Catholic Church in Pope's NYC visit

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Claudio M. Burgaleta, SJ discusses the hope for a more welcoming Catholic Church in Pope's NYC visit

Pope Francis visits the United States and Cuba this week after having helped the two re-establish diplomatic relations after a rupture of more than five decades.
As a brother Jesuit and Cuban-born fellow Latino, I await his arrival in New York with great excitement and anticipation.
I look forward to hearing his Argentinian Spanish and his uncanny ability to surprise with tender gestures and imaginative turns of phrase.
And then I wonder if he will drop in to one of our New York Jesuit communities, as he has done on some of his other international trips.
He is the first pope to name himself after St. Francis of Assisi, the first Latin American and the first member of the Jesuit order in history to serve as pope.
Since his election, his simplicity of life, humility, fluid rhetoric and gestures of joy and compassion have infused the papacy with incredible popularity and affection.
This has generated what some have called the “Francis effect,” or a sense of interest and hope in a more welcoming Catholic Church.
What can we expect from him as he comes to New York City?
His roots as an Argentinian Jesuit offer us some important insights.
Greater Buenos Aires, Francis’ beloved birthplace and site of most of his life’s ministry, is a cosmopolitan, world-class metropolis.
It is home to sizable Jewish and Muslim communities. Two porteños, as those from Buenos Aires are called, Rabbi Avraham Skorka and Sheik Omar Abboud, are great friends of the pope and accompanied him to the Holy Land last May.
And similar to New York, Buenos Aires is a city of immigrants, hundreds of thousands from Europe and more recently from poorer parts of Latin America. The Holy Father himself is the son of an Italian-immigrant family from near Turin in northwestern Italy.
It is understandable, then, that Francis is visiting an East Harlem Catholic elementary school, Our Lady Queen of Angels, that serves the sons and daughters of Latino immigrants.
As a Latin American Jesuit, Francis has been influenced by what’s called “the preferential option for the poor.”
As the pope himself wrote last year, urging us not to ignore or forget the less fortunate among us:
“Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.
“The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime, all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
In 1968, Latin American bishops at Medellín, Colombia, placed themselves at the side of those seeking social justice. They saw the fight against social and economic structures of sin as an essential part of the prophetic ministry of Jesus, who came to bring the fullness of life, not only in the afterlife but in the here and now.
Buenos Aires is a city that experienced state-sponsored terrorism during the “Dirty War” of the 1970s, and the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in 1994, where 85 perished.
Sensibly then, his schedule includes an address at the General Assembly of the United Nations about world peace, economic justice and the migration crisis, and an interreligious prayer service at Ground Zero for an end to violence — in the name of God.
The Rev. Claudio M. Burgaleta, SJ is a native of Cuba and a professor at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University.

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