Pay close attention to pope's words and actions, papal nuncio says

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the
United States, gets plenty of questions about Pope Francis.

A March 27 discussion at
Georgetown University, sponsored by the university’s Initiative on Catholic
Social Thought and Public Life, was no exception. The nuncio, who sat onstage
with John Carr, the initiative’s director, was asked about the pope’s key
issues and his impact in the four years since his election.

Instead of emphasizing the pope’s
special qualities or accomplishments, Archbishop Pierre, who has been in the
Vatican diplomatic corps for almost 40 years, stressed how Catholics are called
to view the pope and essentially work with him in the mission of spreading the

He told the audience, nearly
filling a campus auditorium, that it is not a question of whether the pope is
good or bad or if one agrees with him or not. The issue, for Catholics, is to
discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pope.

“We have to pay a lot of
attention to the person of the pope and to his message and to his testimony because
the pope is not just words but he is also actions and actions that are powerful words,” the
nuncio said.

Archbishop Pierre, who was
appointed to the U.S. post by Pope Francis last April, would not comment on the
pope’s approval ratings compared to politicians nor would he address the current
political climate, but he stressed that one’s personal faith can’t be separated
from daily life and that people need to use discernment even in civic duties
like voting.

When asked about care for
migrants in today’s world, he said Christians should be the “soul of this
country” and Catholics should
follow the example of Pope Francis who goes out to the borders and reaches out
to those who are broken and those who suffer.

church is in the business of evangelization,” he added, saying this works
best when the church “goes outside herself” to meet people where they
are. And in a pointed statement to this country, he added: If America is the
center of the world then it has “a huge responsibility to help others.”

the nuncio was joined on stage by other panelists, they reiterated the importance
of the pope’s message that has come across just as much from his actions as
his words.

sum up the pope’s message to Catholics today, Ken Hackett, former U.S.
ambassador to the Holy See and former president and CEO of Catholic Relief
Services, looks to the example of the pope’s visit to the United States in 2015
where the pope’s presence, in front of Congress and with the poor, and his
words at each stop made Catholics proud of their faith.

Daniels, a member of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, said the
pope’s message has resonated not just with Catholics but also with those who have
heard him even through social media. She said he has made the call to live
out one’s faith “something that’s concrete and not abstract” and
something “we can do right here, right now, where we are.”

Maria Teresa Gaston, managing director of the Foundations of Christian
Leadership Program at the Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, the
pope has been clearest on his message of community, telling people, including
“those who are undocumented: You are loved and valued.”

also points to his message to youths at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 as
something that still resonates with her. He told the crowd “not to be
afraid, to take risks and to be courageous” stressing they should prepare for
“courageous and prophetic action in solidarity with the earth and with the

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Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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