Conservative and liberal Catholics gather for Papal visit in New York City

Conservative and liberal Catholics gather for Papal visit in New York City

Pope Francis visit to the US sent thousands of people to the streets–Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and skeptics of religion alike— hoping to catch a glimpse of him in between events. They stood in the sidewalks for hours, even defying police mandates asking them to clear the streets. Pope mania, some called it, a phenomenon reminiscent of the Beatlemania of the 60s. It is an effect aggravated largely by global media, eager to appoint Pope Francis as the most progressive head of the Vatican, a man determined to bring the Catholic Church into this century’s reality. Of course Pope Francis surprising statements, “Who am I to judge?” among them, have also contributed to his rock star status.

But conversations with people waiting to see him throughout his New York schedule indicated that his views have created a riff between the most conservative and liberal members of the Catholic Church.  James Germalic, 72, a self-described conservative Catholic from Paramount, Ohio, who came out to see the Pope at the 9/11 memorial, didn’t approve of his positions. “He can’t say that ‘Who am I to judge?’ He’s taking the place of Christ and we’re all going to be judged by Christ, so until Christ comes back, he needs to judge,” he said. He criticized the Pope’s diplomatic pronouncements comparing them to those of an academic. “The Pope’s primary duty is to stand up for the faith and the morals. This could actually cause a schism in the Church.”

However others like Glorianne Bruno, who had stood in front of Madison Square Garden for over two hours waiting for the Pope to arrive, were more approving. Bruno 56, a Catholic from New Jersey, said Pope Francis has a better understanding than his predecessors about the world’s issues. She commended his call to action to be more open and accepting of divorced Catholics, like her sister. “The marriage wasn’t working out. Should you stay? And what makes you not be a good Christian about that?

We’ve been going to church every Sunday, since we were newborns, receiving communion, going to confession, so because you’re divorced you should be turned away from church? No.”

Standing outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral,  Sister Rufina Mostero, 81, from the Philippines’ Missionary Sisters of the Lord’s Table, agrees, “Pope Francis is a blessing; he’s a gift from the Lord for the Church and the world. Through the Pope, God gave us a message of mercy, compassion and love.” Mostero recognizes the need for the modernization of the Catholic Church in order to draw in more members. A view shared by Miguel Cocone, a Mexican immigrant living and working in a Brooklyn-based chapter of the organization “Apóstoles de la Palabra” (Apostles of the Word), “He is progressive because he is aware of what is going on. He wants to reunite the Church so we can strengthen our community.”

And there are even some like Leonore “Norii” Kalom, 67, from Ohio, who disagree on Pope’s Francis “progressive” approach yet still respect and admire his labor. “His role is doctrinal, to stand for the moral issues that are falling apart. If he doesn’t stand up and say ‘this is wrong,’ people don’t think about it and they just accept whatever the ruling is, what the authorities say it’s right.”

By providing encouraging words while not actually committing to a stance on the most controversial issues, he has managed to regain the trust of non-practicing Catholics, attract new potential members to Church and maintain a solid standing with long-term conservative Catholics.  As Inés San Martín, the Vatican correspondent for Crux, the Boston Globe’s Catholic website, pointed out in an interview for Colombia Journalism Review, “If both sides, liberals and conservatives, sat down and read everything the Pope has said so far, both of them would probably realize that they shouldn’t be as happy or as afraid as they are.”


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Maria Gonzalez
Maria Gonzalez 3 posts

Mexican journalist studying a masters in Magazine Writing. Opinionated. Wordy. A little awkward sometimes. You can read more from me at or follow me on Twitter @mariainnyc

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