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Pilgrimage For The Pope, A Salve Against Trump

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Please note the following column was translated from Spanish to English and is available for reprint as long as the author is given proper credit. This column is available online in Spanish here.

The heretofore unstoppable Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump brands anyone who contradicts him as “stupid” and prides himself that the terrible things he says are things that many want to say but do not dare.  His arrogance and rhetoric have made him an idol for the 30 percent of the Republican Party that hopes that Trump, like an Etch-a-Sketch, will be able to magically erase the demographic changes that have altered the physical and electoral face of the United States.

And so far, the fear and the hesitation that has been the response of the Republican Party and the other Republican candidates to Trump, with the possible exception of Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham who have pushed back minimally, have fueled the businessman who has altered forecasts and strategies in both political parties.

Trump has insulted Mexicans, immigrants, Spanish-speakers, women, veterans, Hispanic reporters like Jorge Ramos and José Díaz-Balart, and everyone he considers inferior to his “greatness.” His rhetoric has emboldened certain prejudiced sectors of our society and his incendiary rhetoric has the potential to incite violence – which it has already done.

This whole soap opera is unfolding in the context of the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis to the United States, a Pope who represents everything that Trump does not: humility and compassion.

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, regardless of the religion Trump claims, which is open to debate, though he assures us he’s a Presbyterian. Many of those who follow Trump are the types of Christians that “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.” They sing religious songs, but trample biblical teachings at every opportunity.

On September 15, from the York Detention Center in Pennsylvania, more than 150 women, immigrants and activists from diverse organizations and local, state and national campaigns will begin the Pilgrimage of 100 Women, 100 Miles which will culminate on September 22 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The same day they will hold a vigil and a procession from the Basilica to the Capitol Reflecting Pool; and on September 23 there will be a pilgrimage to the Ellipse during the White House welcome reception for Pope Francis. Among the participating organizations and campaigns are We Belong Together, Not1More, CASA de Maryland, SEIU, AFL-CIO, PICO, and the DC Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

One of the pilgrims is Juana Flores, deputy director of the organization Mujeres Unidas y Activas in San Francisco, a group that assists domestic workers and victims of domestic violence. Juana was a nun in Mexico and in 1979 she was in charge of preparing meals for Pope John Paul II during his visit to Oaxaca, Mexico. Over time, Juana left the convent and later traveled without documentation to the United States with her children. She was married here and naturalized and is now a citizen. But she experienced many bitter moments, like many immigrants who are waiting for a permanent solution to their immigration limbo still do today.

In Pope Francis’s visit and the pilgrimage, Juana sees hope.

“Pope Francisco and Mr. Donald Trump are two very distinct parallel lines. We hope that the messages of humility, peace and compassion that the Pope preaches and lives will alleviate some of the pain we are feeling due to everything that Mr. Trump is saying,” Juana said.

“We have been deeply humiliated, all of us Latino immigrants, and we hope that the Pope can counteract the pain we feel. I have hope that the Pope, as Pastor of the highest church, will relieve our spiritual pain, but at the same time will put political pressure and explain to this gentleman (Trump) that what he is saying is wrong and that he needs to push for the immigration reform we are waiting for,” Juana said.

Guillermina Castellanos, founder of La Colectiva de Mujeres (The Women’s Collective), a group of domestic employees in San Francisco, is another one of the pilgrims.

“We have great faith in Pope Francis’s visit. He is paying close attention to the issue of immigration and especially to the anti-immigrant discourse of Donald Trump, which is highly racist. I’m sure he will advocate for all of the women who participate in the pilgrimage and for our families. He has encouraged and promoted many changes in such a short time, and has changed the perspective to see things from the point of view of humility and charity. As the highest authority he can change the mindset of those who are anti-immigrant, because he will touch their hearts as he has done with each one of us,” Guillermina said.

Will Pope Francis’s visit be a salve for the hurtful anti-immigrant rhetoric of Trump? Many hope it will.

Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor at America’s Voice.