Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pope Francis a Stranger to the US in Many Ways

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pope Francis a Stranger to the US in Many Ways

Article excerpt

NEW YORK * When Pope Francis sets foot on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington on Sept. 22, it won't just be his first time in the United States as pontiff. It will be his first time in the country ever.

The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, never followed the footsteps of so many fellow Roman Catholic leaders of his rank, who sought to raise their profiles, along with funds for missions back home, by networking within the deeply influential and well-resourced U.S. church.

This gap in his rsum can be explained in part by Francis' personality. He was a homebody who loathed being away and felt a profound obligation to stay near the people of his archdiocese. He also famously opposed ladder-climbing, condemning what he called "airport bishops" who spend more time traveling for their own prestige or pleasure than serving their flock.

Still, Francis' lack of firsthand experience of the U.S. stands out for many, especially those struggling to absorb his unsparing critique of the excesses of global capitalism and wondering whether this first Latin American pope harbors resentment over the history of U.S. policies in his native region.

"This trip to the United States will be the most difficult, the most challenging, and the most interesting because he's exploring a world that for him is more foreign than Asia, than the Philippines," where Francis traveled last January, said Massimo Faggioli, an expert in church history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. "It's not just a language barrier. It's a cultural barrier."

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, an Argentine and one of Francis' key advisers at the Vatican, said he was aware of but disputed the perception that the pope disliked the United States. Francis' view that a global economic system focused on maximizing profits was destroying the poor and the environment has landed hard in a country considered the world headquarters for capitalism. …

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