Vatican spokesman: Pope Francis comes to U.S. with spirit of humility

At a media briefing following the arrival of Pope Francis to the United States, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope brings an attitude of humility, respect and interest with him to his first visit to the United States.

“He will speak, but he will also learn," Father Lombardi said. "For him, this is a great occasion of a new encounter. We expect very much from him, but he is always open to what he receives from the other in the attitude of dialogue."

Father Lombardi added that the Holy Father is gaining an increased sense of globalization through his many travels in the last 2 1/2 years.

“The experience of the pope as universal pastor is growing,” Father Lombardi said. “I feel that the pope is now able to be ready to address very global questions as he has done in the encyclical Laudato Si’ and as he is doing in these last trips in Latin America and now here in the USA and the United Nations assembly.”

The pope now feels that he has the “experience and the moral authority” to “bring the answers and questions to the most important assemblies of the world of today,” as he will do in coming days as he addresses the U.S. Congress and the United Nations General Assembly, Father Lombardi said.

Speaking to the Holy Father's recent news conference on board the papal plane from Cuba to D.C. this afternoon, Father Lombardi reiterated Pope Francis’ comments that the Holy Father has always followed in the tradition of the Church when it comes to social teaching.

“Obviously there are many people that have not known maybe the complexity and richness of the Church and have interpreted in a limited way, but the pope has stressed that he is in this tradition,” Father Lombardi said.

Happening concurrently to Pope Francis' arrival is the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which began today. Father Lombardi said that Pope Francis will be informed as to what happens at the Congress throughout the week and will follow its first days closely. He reminded the media that the reason Pope Francis is in the country in the first place is because of the World Meeting.

Pope Francis’ speech to families this morning in Cuba “was designed exactly to address the continuity with the visit in Cuba with the visit in the United States,” Father Lombardi said, encouraging that it be read in its entirety.

Many questions revolved around content of Pope Francis’ speeches while in the United States, and Father Lombardi, gently reminding those gathered that he is not a prophet, emphasized the importance of listening to the words of the Holy Father throughout the week.

Speaking on behalf of the U.S bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Houston, said that even though Pope Francis is only visiting three cities, “this is an apostolic journey to the entire United States.” Cardinal DiNardo said Pope Francis comes to the United States as a shepherd.

“He’s inviting us all to rise above whatever may divide us culturally or politically and toward greater service to one another,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “In short, he comes to speak the mind and the heart of the Gospel."

The goal of the bishops, he added, “is to step back and leave room for the message of the Holy Father to be received in all of its wholeness.”

Before arriving in the United States, Pope Francis spent the last few days in Cuba, where he shared a message of hope and encounter with the Cuban people. The Holy Father arrived at Joint Base Andrews just before 4 p.m. this afternoon. After being greeted by many dignitaries and members of the U.S. Church hierarchy, he traveled in what Father Lombardi called his “characteristic motorcade” — a small car surrounded by big cars — to the apostolic nunciature in the District, where he will be staying. Tomorrow’s reception at the White House will be the first speech of the pope in English. 

Gretchen R. Crowe is editor of OSV Newsweekly. For updates throughout the day, follow her on Twitter at @GretchenOSV