Pope Francis made his first official visit to the United States on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, and returned to Rome on Sunday. He came to participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia but made stops in Washington D.C. and New York as well. Countless people traveled around the nation to be a part of his first U.S. tour.
Pope Francis, also known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic church in March 2013. He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, making him the first Pope from the Americas. Pope Francis is known for his humility and advocacy for the world’s poor as well as his active role in politics and care for the environment. TIME magazine named Pope Francis as Person of the Year in December 2013.
Many of Pope Francis’ views align with LDS views, according to his 184-page papal encyclical. He emphasized a push to protect the environment as well as to help the poor, thoughts echoed by many LDS leaders over the past two years. Pope Francis taught that humble dominion over the earth is needed towards all its creatures as taught in the Bible. Latter-day Saints share that belief. Elder Marcus B. Nash, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, spoke at the University of Utah two years ago on the church’s teachings and support for humble dominion as well as concern for the poor.
“God’s plan of happiness calls for humility, gratitude and mutual respect,” Nash said.
Reverend David Bittmenn of the St. Francis of Assisi Church, a Roman Catholic church in Orem, Utah, shared his excitement for the Pope’s visit. He said the Catholic community in Utah was very pleased with his coming and several groups from Utah traveled to see the Pope. He also said he thinks Latter-day Saints should take note of the Pope’s visit.
“His voice represents over a billion people and his way of reading and interpreting the Gospel for today’s world does make an impact on the world itself,” Bittmenn said. “Not only in the name of humanism, but in the name of the golden rule, putting one self in the shoes of other people. This is an important thing.”
Pope Francis first arrived in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. He had a personal meeting with Barack Obama, participated in a Papal parade and also took part in a prayer service with U.S. bishops during his time there.
He then visited New York. He was a part of a multi-denominational religious service at the 9/11 Memorial as well as prayer and mass services while he was there. Pope Francis also visited a Roman Catholic school and had a Papal motorcade through Central Park.
Pope Francis then visited Independence Mall, attended mass and visited a correctional facility after he arrived for his visit in Philadelphia. The Pope was also a part of the World Meeting of Families where he visited with many and held a mass for those present.
Many BYU students followed the Pope’s visit and were very excited about his presence here in the United States.
“The BYU community should care about this, because he represents a large percentage of the Christians of this world and has significant influence in shaping their view of Christ and His teachings,” Brighton Youd, a junior majoring in finance, said. “The more respect that we show to our fellow believers, Christian or not, the more respect they will show to us.”
Landon Eyre, another junior in the finance program also shared his thoughts on the Pope’s visit.
“As BYU students caught in the bubble of Provo, we need to understand the positive influence that other religions, policies and ideas can have in our lives,” Eyre said. “We need to be able to understand, talk about and support the fact that Pope Francis is doing and will do incredible good for Christianity and the world.”
The Harold B. Lee Library at BYU honored the Pope’s visit to the United States by participating in the national 7 pages, 7 days event. The library put on a special display of the Saint John’s bible, joining with over 60 other institutions nationwide. Specific pages of the Saint John’s bible were displayed along with spiritual thoughts throughout the duration of the Pope’s visit.
Gordon Daines, a supervisor in the special collections department of the Lee Library shared his thoughts on BYU’s decision to participate in the event.
“This was an appropriate way to join in with our Catholic brothers and sisters in honoring the visit of the Pope.” Daines said.