The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Editorial: Pope mania one year later

Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015 was unlike other Sunday mornings at Saint Joseph’s University.

Rather than attending morning mass, grabbing brunch at Campion, or catching the women’s soccer game, St. Joe’s students were preparing to greet His Holiness himself, Pope Francis.

The lawn outside of the Chapel of Saint Joseph quickly flooded with students whispering excitedly to each other. As the pope finally stepped onto campus and walked toward St. Joe’s newest statue, calm swept over the crowd, which was quickly followed by cheering.

Nearly every St. Joe’s student remembers the feeling of excitement when Pope Francis stepped onto our campus. We remember getting a hurried text from our roommate or doing a double take at the Tweet that informed us of his visit, then racing towards the lawn to stake out a spot. We remember how animated we were when he waved to us as he drove down City Ave. in his Fiat on the way to the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. Even those of us who were abroad or at an internship during Pope Francis’ visit can appreciate the elation that swept social media.

For many, the pope’s visit brought a renewed sense of community and belonging; in a fury of enthusiasm, students turned towards one another and bonded in joy. The energy rippled throughout campus and reinforced our feeling of community.  Regardless of whether or not His Holiness intended to, he forged connections between all of us here on Hawk Hill. Even now, one year after his visit, we are challenged to consider why we were stirred so much by the presence of a singular man and how he affected our views of the greater world.

The answer to this question may lie, in part, in Pope Francis’ reason for visiting us in the first place. He had one significant task in mind: blessing “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,” a statue that represents the unity and respect reached through the religious document “Nostra Aetate” on its 50th anniversary. The statue, which is located outside of the chapel, celebrates the increasingly positive relationship between Christianity and Judaism.

This inter-religious symbolism transcends the statue itself. Pope Francis is a global ambassador known for constantly working to help people of all walks of life and religions. He is more than the leader of the Catholic Church; he is a global leader of change and human rights, challenging injustices and long-held Catholic traditions with a new perspective. He transcends religion and symbolizes something that everyone can support. To have a figure of such universal recognition make a visit to our campus was monumental for all St. Joe’s students, no matter our faith or religion, and as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ visit, we should remember its importance.

Furthermore, the historical implications of such a visit should not be overlooked. On Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States he chose to include Pennsylvania on his itinerary—and of all of Pennsylvania, he chose to include Philadelphia. Within the Philadelphia region, which is full of colleges and universities, he made the conscious decision to visit Saint Joseph’s and bless a statute that recognizes religious tolerance and inclusion, as well as the strength of critical religious thought.

But he did not come just to represent those ideals. His visit should reinforce them.

The values that we hold so dear at Saint Joseph’s can, after a few years, begin to feel commonplace. But Pope Francis’ visit brought light to the mission of our community: to reach further into our own vocations and be able to stand with others in their situations, as well. To understand and accept others for who they are. To go out of our way to help those in need. As we celebrate the anniversary of the pope’s visit, we should all appreciate that we witnessed something surreal and incredibly significant on our campus, no matter our individual religious beliefs. We were united as a community in a mission of tolerance, and that is a gift that we should always strive to maintain.

Pope Francis is a pope for the history books. His visit to Saint Joseph’s is an imprint on our own personal histories, as well as that of the university community as a whole. We were knit together by the thread of a timeless day and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Let’s continue to carry its impact with us, both on its anniversary and into the future.

-The Hawk Staff

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