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A Jew, a Communist and a practicing Catholic were working a construction site in Argentina. It’s not a joke but a story Pope Francis told to a group of young Cubans urging them to seek friendships across the political divide. “They were all working for the common good,” Francis said. “This is social friendship, to look for the common good.” It is a poignant message in the Cuban nation split between pro and anti-regime sentiments. He challenged his audience saying “Do you believe it’s possible a traitor can become a friend?” Francis followed his two predecessors to Cuba for pastoral not political purposes urging the people raised under the atheist communist ideology to come back to church.

Commentators across the spectrum find reasons to criticize the political views that Pope Francis keeps very close to his vestments. They dirty his hands for supposedly collaborating with leftist regimes who did not reciprocate his friendship. He is called a Marxist even though he fought against Liberation Theology, its modern Latin American descendant. They criticize his complaints against unfettered capitalism when he actually criticizes unfettered consumerism. One Republican even announced he would boycott the unprecedented papal address to Congress later this week due to the Pope’s views on global warming. Maybe Francis drifted from theology on that one but in Cuba he disavowed politics saying “Whoever wishes to be great must serve others, not be served by others… Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”

The Pope has received criticism for not meeting with Cuban dissidents but the Vatican says several were invited but police arrested them en route to the various events. Visits with the Castro brothers were friendly nonetheless and the crowds turning out for public masses heard a message of mercy and friendship from the pope that broke the ice in US-Cuba relations.
Francis comes to Washington DC Tuesday afternoon, will canonize Saint Junipero Serra Wednesday and then address our public servants in Congress on Thursday where all ears will be listening for which side of the political divide he takes. If true to form he will challenge each to see beyond their ideologies towards a common good. Thursday night brings him to New York City where he will pray for that common good at the recently refurbished St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Friday morning he will address the United Nations General Assembly followed by a visit to Ground Zero. Harlem schoolchildren will meet him Friday afternoon before he travels through Central Park on his way to mass at Madison Square Garden at 6pm. Pope Francis will leave New York Saturday morning to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and then depart back to Rome Sunday night.

Meanwhile, during his current stay in USA, security is at its tightest ever in Washington DC, NYC and Philadelphia. He will address Congress at The Capitol and in The Big Apple he speaks at The UN for 170 world leaders attending the General Assembly, who also have to be protected.

New York City and Philadelphia are sure to experience gridlock of biblical proportions, so take public transportation, if you're blessed to have ticket to see The Holy Father.

BY: Dan Hickey