Catching Up With the Pope: Bye D.C., Hello NYC

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The Pope Blesses U Street NW DC. #PopeInDC #BensChiliBowl

A photo posted by Angela R. Washington (@theangelafactor) on

Thursday was a big day for the pope, but maybe an even bigger day for John Boehner: The House speaker cried his way through Francis’s speech before Congress and his greeting on the west lawn of the Capitol. This was the first time a pope has ever addressed the United States Congress, and the pope used the opportunity to discuss immigration, war, poverty, the death penalty, and the importance of family. A few political elders appeared to doze during the speech; others strained forward with frowns, trying to understand the pontiff’s somewhat labored English.

As all this was happening, Molly and I had a little debate—Pope Francis: Democrat or nah? She argues that he has elevated issues that are particularly dear to American Democrats. I argued back that his worldview is much more coherent than most in American politics, defying the left/right U.S. political spectrum. Furthermore, it flows out of the gospel, not ideology.

Speaking of politics:

Yesterday, David had a round-up on the pope’s White House speech and its possible implications. Priscilla added some color from the ground. And other reporters found out late on Wednesday that the pope made an unscheduled stop to see the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have been fighting the Obama administration on its birth-control mandate.

And in case you missed them, a few other notes from his stop in Washington. On Wednesday, Francis canonized Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary priest who converted natives in California in the mid-18th century. I took a look at what this means in the context of colonialism, while Kathy looked at the fascinating question of what constitutes a sainthood-worthy miracle in modern times. Also, here’s a little history of the use of Latin in Roman Catholic masses.

Tomorrow, Pope Francis will spend the day in New York City, addressing the United Nations, visiting the 9/11 memorial, seeing some schoolkids in Harlem, and celebrating mass in Madison Square Garden. We’ll be following the papal trail; check back on this thread for updates. Meanwhile, the Vatican sleeps: