The visit of Pope Francis to the United States excited Catholics and non-Catholics alike this past week. His message was not what many conservative Republicans wanted to hear as he spoke of the culture of consumerism in the body of the church as well as an order for the clergy to be more compassionate and pray for their congregation. Over three million Blacks in the United States are Catholic and Blacks as a whole have a long history with the church.
As native people were enslaved both in the Americas and Africa, they were blessed by priests and given Christian names and declared Catholic.
Pope John Paul II during a visit to Cameroon spoke of the cruelty of the slave trade and the need for compassion and the need to treat others “as their brother, their neighbor.” He further stated, “In the course of history, men belonging to Christian nations did not always do this, and we ask pardon from our African brothers who suffered so much because of the trade in Blacks.”
Last week, Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress and spoke about racial inequality, infuriating some conservatives by quoting Dr. Martin L. King Jr. and implying he agreed with the Black Lives Matter movement. “All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. Here, too, I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his dream of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of dreams — dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people,” he said.
The visit of Pope Francis gave a glimpse into his vision of a more inclusive Catholic Church and the acceptance of diversity and love of all humanity. The fact that this occurred under the leadership of President Obama increases the significance of the papal visit.