100 women and their supporters began a 100 mile walk today to greet Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. as he visits for a historic address to a joint session of Congress next week.
Inspired by his call for dignity for immigrants, migrants, and refugees — a key plank of his Papacy — the women are walking from the York County Detention Center in Pennsylvania, and plan to coincide with the Pope’s arrival in D.C. on September 22nd.
The walk is deeply personal to many of the pilgrims — several currently have loved ones jailed inside the detention center, according to one of the walk’s organizers.
Among the walkers will be Juana Flores, a former nun who once prepared meals for Pope Saint John Paul II during his 1979 visit to Mexico.
Once an undocumented immigrant herself, Sister Juana is now co-director of Mujeres Unidas and hopes the pilgrimage helps refocus the immigration debate — which has become increasingly hostile and violent following the campaign launch of Donald Trump — back to the dignity and humanity of immigrants.
“Pope Francis has said that the globalization of migration requires a globalization of charity and cooperation,” Sister Juana said. “He describes a world where no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable, a church without borders, and nations that welcome the stranger.”
“We have much work to do to bring about the world of dignity the Pope describes, but we believe each step on our hundred mile journey will bring us another step closer.”
— America’s Voice (@americasvoice) September 15, 2015
100 miles, 100 women walking together united by love, faith, community, dignity. #100women100miles #WeBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/GACLkoBtdZ — Miami Workers Center (@MiamiWorkersCtr) September 15, 2015
— Lara Hoke Ⓥ (@RevLara) September 15, 2015
We’re walking for dignity for our children. More photos at http://t.co/PcqnDTUrwJ #100Women100Miles #WalkwithFrancis pic.twitter.com/aIwuUTidCa — Domestic Workers (@domesticworkers) September 15, 2015
As AV’s Maribel Hastings noted in a recent column, “Pilgrimage For The Pope, A Salve Against Trump, the walkers see Pope Francis as representing everything Trump is not.
“Immigrants, their supporters, and the few politicians who have dared to confront loudmouth Trump, see in this visit of Pope Francis to Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia the possibility that an ecclesiastical authority will step up to Trump, albeit indirectly, with lessons of humanity and compassion,” wrote Hastings.
Andrea Cristina Mercado, co-chair of We Belong Together, the primary organizer of the walk, said, “We believe that most people in the US and around the world would choose to welcome migrants and refugees into our communities. We see people opening their hearts and homes everyday.”
“Through our pilgrimage we will lift up the best of who we are together. The pope’s words have been a balm for us in a time still so filled with suffering. We look forward to welcoming him when he comes to DC as he encourages world leaders to reflect compassion in their actions.”
The women plan to walk up to 15 miles per day until reaching the White House on September 22nd, for a prayer vigil before the Pope’s scheduled visit with President Obama the next day.
Earlier this month, ABC News reported the Pope would be blessing a small group of undocumented immigrants and refugees while in New York, including refugees who fled violence-ravaged nations in Central America.
Pope Francis is the first Pontiff to accept Speaker Boehner’s invitations to the Vatican to speak before Congress. Boehner, a devout Catholic, has refused to allow a vote on comprehensive immigration reform to come to the House floor for a vote, even though enough support existed during the last Congress for passage.