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Pope’s visit excites faithful in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexicans plan to participate in Pope Francis’ visit to the United States this week in a variety of ways, ranging from in-person visits at his public appearances to a series of candlelight vigils scheduled across the state.

Roman Catholics also have the option of following the papal visit using a variety of online tools, including on-demand video and an interactive map offered on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

The papal visit will start with his arrival today in Washington, D.C., and end with his departure from Philadelphia on Sunday.

Francis’ first visit to the United States also has roused curiosity about the message he may bring to the U.S. in a series of public appearances, including a speech Thursday to a joint session of Congress.

“My read is that he is trying to reposition the public Catholic message around a much broader set of issues,” said Richard Wood, director of the University of New Mexico’s Southwest Institute on Religion, Culture and Society.

A00_j22Sept_PopeMapU.S. Catholic leadership long has focused on a narrow set of issues, such as opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, said Wood, who plans to travel Thursday to Philadelphia, where Francis will round out his U.S. visit on Saturday and Sunday.

“In the pope’s view, the real Christian message is a broad one across all kinds of issues,” including compassion for immigrants and the poor, Wood said. “He’s certainly going to talk about immigrant rights, and I would also expect him to talk about the impact of low wages on families.”

Wood also said he expects Francis to address wars in the Middle East and the resulting refugee crisis in Europe in his address Friday to the U.N. General Assembly in New York City.

Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester received a coveted ticket to Francis’ speech to Congress as a guest of Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., archdiocese spokeswoman Celine Radigan said. Wester is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ communications committee.

Radigan said she and other Catholic communications officials expect to distribute credentials to 7,000 reporters from 263 countries from a media center at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

The last event on Francis’ U.S. itinerary is a meeting Sunday with organizers of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, including Las Cruces Bishop Oscar CantĂș, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee on international justice and peace.

The meeting, which began Monday, brings together 130 Catholic and Latino leaders who work with family ministries in the U.S. and Latin America to discuss opportunities and challenges faced by Spanish-speaking families, according to a news release. CantĂș is scheduled to make a presentation this week to participants.

Four Albuquerque women plan to join a Women’s Pilgrimage for Migrant Justice, a 100-mile march from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., to protest U.S. immigration policy.

About 200 New Mexico faith leaders held a rally in Albuquerque on Thursday in support of the march and to call for rights for immigrants.

“We can all stand with Pope Francis on calling us to turn from intolerance and join forces to promote a culture of encounter, respect and understanding,” the Rev. Vincent Chavez, pastor of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus said at the rally.


Follow the pope online

To view a detailed itinerary and other information, visit The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops offers on-demand video, an interactive map and other information. Visit and click “U.S. Papal Visit.”

Faith leaders will hold candlelight vigils at several sites Wednesday on the eve of Francis’ speech to Congress. They are: 6:30 p.m., Old Town Plaza in Albuquerque; 8 p.m., Taos Plaza; 6:30 p.m., McKinley Courthouse Plaza in Gallup; 7:30 p.m., Gough Park Picnic Shelter in Silver City; 7 p.m., Eddy County Courthouse in Carlsbad; and noon Thursday, on the steps of St. Francis Cathedral Basilica in Santa Fe.