As previously announced, a special edition of the US television channel ABC’s program 20/20 featured Pope Francis last Friday night.
Audiences were gathered in Chicago, Los Angeles, and McAllen, Texas, and had a “virtual audience” with the Pope through video connection.
The full episode can be viewed here: http://abcnews.go.com/International/video/watch-full-abc-news-papal-virtual-audience-english-33518680
The episode began with the Pope sending an “affectionate greeting” to the United States, in the lead-up to his visit here later this month.
Then, from Chicago, students from the Cristo Rey school spoke with the Holy Father. Specifically, two young women shared with him some of their personal stories.
One, who recounted the bullying she suffered because of a health issue, explained that she turned to music for support.
Pope Francis spoke to her in English, asking her, “May I ask of you to sing a song for me?” and encouraging her — “Go on! Go on! Be courageous!” — until she sang a few lines from a song to Our Lady.
He used the example of her courage as an exhortation to the young people to be courageous and go forward without fear. “There’s nothing worse than a young person who has ‘retired,'” he said. And assured that God would give courage in answer to prayer.
Another explained the difficulty of her childhood since her father passed away when she was only 5 years old, but added that she tried to follow in his footsteps by always trying to help other people.
Then from a center supporting the homeless in Los Angeles, a young man who has “spent more nights living on the streets of this city than he can ever count” asked the Pope why his trip to America was important to him.
The Holy Father explained that he is at the service of all Churches and all men and women of good will. And closeness, he said, is very important for him. “For me, it’s difficult not to be close to people.”
The Pope said that approaching people makes it easier to understand and help them along life’s path.
An 11-year-old, accompanied by her mother and younger sister, explained how she had felt ashamed about living in a shelter, and envious of the families who got to go into their big houses. Her mother added that it’s a struggle to be a single mom, to hear her daughter wish that things were different, and wish for a house and a united family with a mom and dad. “I’ve made some mistakes,” she said, but added how she encourages her daughters and takes inspiration from them to not give up. “I know I’m still scared, but every day I try,” she said.
Pope Francis immediately thanked her for her testimony. “I know it’s not easy to be a single mother,” he said. “But you’re a brave woman.”
“You were capable of bringing these two daughters into the world. You could have killed them inside your womb. And you respected life. You respected the life you were carrying inside of you. And God will reward you for that. He does reward you for that. Don’t be ashamed. Hold your head high. ‘I didn’t kill my daughters. I brought them into the world.’ I congratulate you. I congratulate you and God bless you.”
Then from Sacred Heart Church at the US-Mexico border, a young man who was brought to the United States as a 4-year-old spoke to the Pope.
He said that he didn’t understand what it meant to be an immigrant child until his dad had an accident and he had to become the bread-winner of the family at age 16. When it was time for him to enroll in university, he was informed that he couldn’t because of his lack of citizenship. In that context, he asked the Holy Father what could be the solution to a world with so many problems.
The Pope first praised the youth’s father for having taught his son how to work and struggle. He then acknowledged the many injustices in life, reminding that Jesus was the first to embody them. “He was born as a homeless person; his mother had no where to give birth to him,” the Pope reflected, encouraging the audience to always look to Jesus.
He said that God speaks to us through His silence. Considering some of the elements of the great suffering in the world, the Pontiff said that there he sees Jesus on the cross. “And I discover God’s silence. The first silence of God is on Jesus’ cross. The greatest injustice in history, and God stayed silent.”
“What you ask can only be understood in God’s silence and God’s silence, we only understand when we look at the cross,” the Pope reflected.
He then went on to say the world has to learn that exploiting one another is not the right path, that instead, we’re created for friendship, and we are all responsible for everyone else, to help each other as much as we can. But the enmity spoken of by God at the beginning of the Bible grew through time, he lamented, already with Cain and Abel and then with war, destruction and hatred.
Drawing an image from soccer, he said, “The game is played between friendship in society and enmity in society and each one has to make a choice in his or her heart.”
The news reporter then explained that the parish hall of the church has been used to receive thousands of migrants crossing the border, in an effort led by Sr. Norma Pimentel. Though Sr. Norma wasn’t called to the front, the Pope took the initiative to call her forward.
“I want to thank you,” the Holy Father said. “And through you to thank all the sisters of religious orders in the US for the work that you have done and that you do in the United States. It’s great. I congratulate you. Be courageous. Move forward.
“I’ll tell you one other thing. Is it inappropriate for the Pope to say this? I love you all very much.”
Also from McAllen, the Pope heard the testimony of a mother with her young son, who suffers from an eye condition. The mother is wearing an electronic tracking device so that she can’t flee immigration authorities and escape to settle in the United States.
And an 11-year-old girl shared as much of her story as she could through her tears, saying what it was like to make it to the US border from El Salvador, where she and her mother escaped because of the gang-related violence.
The Pope’s parting message to the nation, before his visit in just a few days: “I’m full of hope to meet you all. I pray for you all, for all of the people of the United States, and I ask you, please to pray for me. Thank you!”
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