With the papal visit to the United States now part of history, the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University, who served as an expert correspondent for several national media outlets during the visit, offered reflections on the messages Pope Francis delivered during his time in the U.S.
Here are some of Father Maher’s personal impressions:
- Father Maher said, to him, the most memorable moment of the pope’s visit was his arrival at the White House in a small Fiat, signifying Pope Francis’ determination to simplify life and do away with conspicuous consumption, a practice he’d like others to emulate.
- The pope’s consistent practice of dining with the homeless and less fortunate, which occurred even during his U.S. visit, is an example of Pope Francis’ dedication to helping the marginalized of society, another example he’s providing for others.
- On the pope’s visit to Cuba, Father Maher felt Pope Francis was trying to convey the message that faith, trust and a power beyond us, namely God, can bring forces otherwise at odds with each other together, such as Cuba and the U.S. He said Pope Francis, by meeting with Cuba’s leadership, was working behind the scenes to help create a better life for the Cuban people.
- One of the most powerful traits of the pope, according to Father Maher, is his ability to take risks. By speaking out on the controversial topic of climate change, for example, he expresses himself, not to advance a personal agenda, but to create a better life for all people.
- Father Maher believes an important part of Pope Francis’ message is the need to create equity for all, so all people can experience the basic goods in life: healthcare, jobs, education and family. Future generations, he said, would then have a fulfilling future. “This message resonates deeply because Pope Francis is living it.”
Drawing on his background as a Catholic priest and Vincentian, and as a scholar on social justice, Father Maher offered commentary during the pope’s visit to the following media outlets, among others:
- The Tavis Smiley Show on PBS. It was broadcast nationally.
- The WCBS-TV (Channel 2 in New York City) nationally broadcast from Washington, D.C.
- Telecare TV, a 24-hour Catholic news network that is available to millions of viewers on cable systems nationwide. Father Maher spent Friday and Saturday contributing to Telecare’s coverage of Pope Francis’ time in New York and Philadelphia.
Father Maher was in Washington, D.C., and attended President Obama’s welcome ceremony for the pope on the White House lawn as the guest of Congressman Brian Higgins. He viewed the pope’s address to a joint session of Congress from the lawn outside the Capitol with thousands of other attendees.