There has been much speculation about President Barack Obama’s meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday. One Catholic church authority asserted, “it is not the task of the pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality.” The pope got that message — he wrote it himself in his first official “Papal Exhortation” last year.
Yet Francis has also asserted that his papacy has a “grave responsibility” to “exhort all the communities to an ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times” — particularly to know the face of the poor and outcast.
For the pope, this scrutiny must take in the fierce public debate about government cuts that now overshadows U.S. politics. The left and the right are battling over sharp reductions in foods stamps and unemployment benefits, denial of healthcare to those least able to afford it and cuts in many programs designed to help the poor and needy.
Francis has dedicated his papacy to helping those marginalized by harsh economic policies and personal setbacks. He advocates for a “poor church,” one that can give a voice to the voiceless. So poverty of all kinds will likely be an urgent topic when the pope and the president sit down.
Francis, of course, directly addresses only the 1.2 billion humans who are in the Catholic orbit, and Obama was elected to serve only one nation. Both, however, have “gone global” — their words and actions affect “present realities” around the world.