The Pope visits the United States


Beatrize Stephen-Pons

Pope Francis first initiated his journey to spread some papal love within the United States at 4 p.m. when he arrived in Washington, DC on Sept. 22, 2015.

Pope Francis’ road trip concluded on Sept. 27, 2015. While he was only able to visit DC, New York City, and Philadelphia during his short, five-day long tour, his presence captured attention throughout the country, including within our own community.

When I first learned of the responses Pope Francis was eliciting from the American people, it was through my mother.

She was weeping upstairs as she watched a television program where people from across the country were able to talk to the Pope, tell him stories of their lives, and listen to his warm replies while viewing his image on a large screen.

The experience to essentially Skype call the Pope brought immense solace to the people who confided to him.

After viewing complete strangers becoming rejuvenated after talking with the Pope, I began to hear and see the Pope and news of his visit everywhere. He seemed to reach every corner of my daily life by popping up in anything from Snapchat stories and news segments to countless Pope Francis cartoons and student conversations in Niles North hallways.

Since I did not have set opinions about Pope Francis, I was receptive to how Niles North students reacted to him and his visit.

“I love the way he is accepting,” senior Josh Sahadeo said. “Pope Francis seems to be receptive and understanding of all other ideas.”

Regardless of their religious background, students found themselves praising Pope Francis.

“You don’t even have to be catholic to like him. I just respect him as a man […] he’s had some amazing things to say,” senior Rida Rehmat said.

In particular, Pope Francis calls for priests to “be shepherds with the smell of sheep.” In other words, he encourages priests to be so close to the people that they are one of them.

Pope Francis’ tendency to follow his own advice aids his reputation further with students who admire the Pope’s ability to connect with the people.

“He’s a people person; he’s essentially the coolest Pope ever,” senior Ambereen Khan said.

However, while Pope Francis is respected throughout Niles North hallways, he is not completely immune to criticism.

According to senior Christopher Scheithauer, Pope Francis is a pope “distinguished [among past popes] by his optimism [and by] a decline in doctrinal accuracy.”

When questioned further on how Pope Francis represents a “decline in doctrinal accuracy,” Scheithauer says, “his actions are contradictory and even misleading. […] He had many opportunities to clarify Catholic teaching, but he did not. […] Because of how unclear some of [Pope] Francis’ statements are, many people [mis]interpret them as something new or even groundbreaking.”

However, regardless of whether students adore the Pope or have their criticisms, those who have formulated specific opinions all regret missing the opportunity to meet him.

As Sahadeo says, “I wanted to be one of the babies that he kissed.”