Pope Francis and President Barack Obama during a state arrival ceremony at the White House on Tuesday. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

At the start of his weeklong visit to the United States, The New York Times notes that Pope Francis is inspiring support ranging from respectful to enthusiastic from people across religious traditions.

“I believe he’s a world leader more than a religious leader,” said Sasha Datta, a practicing Hindu who is planning to try to see Francis in Washington and whom the Times quoted. “His openness, his ability to not shy away from real issues — I see a lot of hope when I see people like Pope Francis.”

The pope is in the United States primarily to attend the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic conference that occurs every three years and has never been held before in the United States. This year it is in Philadelphia.

The Times reports:

Two years after his papacy began, Francis — the pontiff with the common touch and the tolerant embrace — is a lodestar to both the spiritual and secular worlds, a global celebrity to those who admire his warmth and a rudder to those who share his concerns about climate change, social justice, poverty and more.

Not all observant Catholics agree with him on the issues: Some conservatives feel he has watered down true belief; some liberals are angry that he has not changed a word of Catholic doctrine.

But for non-Catholics unfamiliar with dogma, Francis has already taken on a broader role, filling a void for those seeking leadership on global issues affecting the planet and the poor. …

Cynthia Olmstead, 49, of South Yarmouth, Mass., who identifies as a secular humanist, said she admired his message of inclusiveness, tolerance, social justice and environmentalism. She said she lived in Argentina when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio made headlines there for taking public transit and mingling with the poor. Now, she said, she is hoping to take her children to New York to see him as Pope Francis.

“I know it sounds strange, but I just feel like it would be a moving experience to see him,” she said. “It’s almost like if you’ve gone to see any kind of civil rights leader speak, and they have a kind of universal message, and even if you don’t necessarily belong to that ethnic group or religious group, you’re moved by the message.”

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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