As the U.S. presidential campaign exposes contempt for elites and angst over the future, Pope Francis arrives for his first visit with plans to denounce gross inequality and planetary neglect.
The message, delivered by the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics during a six-day tour starting on September 22, will doubtless focus U.S. public discourse. Francis, 78, has stamped his humble personality on the papacy and has little time for diplomatic niceties.
Having called money “the devil’s dung” when it enslaves people, he seems likely to rattle politicians and business leaders in a country widely seen as the bastion of capitalism.
“The pope says money is OK, capital is OK, but when money becomes a god, an idol, more important than man, that’s not OK - - whatever people in Wall Street think,” said Andrea Tornielli, author of “This Economy Kills,” on Francis’s economic thinking.
From a privileged pulpit -- embracing Congress, the White House, world leaders at the United Nations and about a million faithful at an outdoor mass -- the Argentine pope, the first from the Americas, is expected to condemn what he has called the “globalization of indifference,” especially toward the wave of desperate refugees from the Middle East.
He is slated to give 17 speeches and homilies. The first pope to address a joint session of Congress, he will visit New York and Philadelphia, making pleas for a new world economy and urgent action on climate change.
Francis, who called for “a poor Church for the poor” upon his election in March 2013, will also reach out to the Hispanic community, the homeless and the prison population.
“Excesses of Capitalism"
His message probably will be seized by Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic nomination and has campaigned against the ‘‘billionaire class,’’ as well as businessman Donald Trump, the leading anti-establishment contender in the Republican camp.
Ken Hackett, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, predicted that conservatives and liberals will ‘‘pull out the paragraph that fits their agenda,’’ especially ‘‘in the beginnings of a presidential season.’’