REGION — Like many of San Diego County’s 800,000 Catholics, Sis. Maureen Brown, a pastoral associate at Oceanside’s St. Thomas More Catholic Church has had Thursday circled on the calendar for more than eight months.
On Thursday morning, Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress, the first pontiff to address America’s legislature in the nation’s history. The Pope is expected to advocate for a renewed emphasis on tackling global poverty, confronting climate change, caring for migrants and providing a welcoming church that is pastoral rather than doctrinaire.
A number of local Catholic churches have arranged private and public viewings of his historic speech, as well as seminars and sessions in the weeks preceding his visit to provide additional insight into his words.
“For me personally, it is just a wonderful experience to have our Holy Father here, especially because I believe the issues he is raising need to be looked at in our society,” Brown said. “Racism, fixing immigration, an economy that is inclusive of the poor and marginalized and our environment.”
While St. Thomas More is not hosting a public viewing of he address, Brown said the church will host a viewing of one of Pope Francis’ homilies from his weeklong visit at 7 p.m. Oct. 2.
“I think the other thing people beyond the Catholic Church see is that he is a very positive and loving figure who is trying to mold us and call us up for mercy and compassion and have our laws reflect the mercy we should have as human beings,” Brown said. “I think he is a very uplifting person in times surrounded by so much pain.”
Local Catholics have extended invitations to people of all backgrounds and faiths to various viewings, highlighting the belief that the Pontiff’s remarks are more than just religious.
One of the larger planned gatherings in North County is scheduled for 6 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Encinitas. Following the Pope’s address, Tom English, a noted environmental expert and interfaith leader, will host a question-and-answer session.
English, a Presbyterian, said the Pope’s remarks on climate change transcend religious beliefs.
“I think the significance comes from the place we are in history, where people are finally starting to understand the extreme effects of climate change and global warming, and out of nowhere appears a pope with an agenda to do something about the problem,” English said. “When people look back in history, provided we are able to turn the tide of the battle against climate change, they will look back at this moment as the turning point.
“The pope’s address could have a profound implication both globally as well as locally in San Diego, regardless of your religious background,” English said.
A second viewing of the Pope’s address hosted by the church will be held at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at the Encinitas Library. A Franciscan monk, a Presbyterian pastor and a Jewish rabbi will join English in a four-person panel discussion after the viewing.