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 in Spanish here.
This has been described as Pope Francis’s most political trip, and rightly so.
In his first stop, on the sister island of Cuba, thousands hope that the Pope’s visit will allow the efforts to restore diplomatic relations and, to a certain point, economic ones, between the United States and the Caribbean nation to satisfy the Cuban people who are thirsting for greater freedoms and opportunities. After all, Pope Francis was the mediator for the agreement between Havana and Washington. It was not clear whether he met with representatives of the dissidents in addition to meeting with the top brass of the Castro regime.
Of course, even from a distance, it was impressive to see an image of Jesus Christ in the same space as Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos at Havana’s Revolution Square.
We’ll see what Pope Francis says or doesn’t say in Cuba. We’ll know if there are specific requests of the Pope’s regime on behalf of the Cuban people. At least in his arrival speech in Havana, talking about the resumption of relations between Cuba and in the United States, he said that “it is a process, a sign of the victory of the culture of encounter, of conversation, of a system of universal augmentation over the system that is forever dead of dynasty and groups, as José Marti said.”
He will then arrive in the United States in the middle of a political and electoral hotbed where divisions and prejudice are the order of the day.
His first of three stops in the United States will be in Washington, D.C., in what some call the devil’s cauldron, where a Republican-majority in Congress is totally divided and where nothing has progressed—particularly comprehensive immigration reform that would bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. These immigrants see this Pope as an advocate and intermediary that can change hearts.
Yes it would take a miracle, but many hope that the Pope could at least somehow tackle the poisonous and prejudiced atmosphere that has taken over the Republican race for the presidential nomination.
Pope Francis is the antithesis of the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. The Pope is humble and defends the vulnerable. He has spoken out in favor of more just and humane immigration policies. He speaks Spanish. Trump is a selfish and arrogant capitalist who appeals to the most extreme and prejudiced ultraconservative sectors. To win support, he does not denounce the excesses of those sectors. And like many who are ignorant, he believes that to speak another language – Spanish – is to be less American. Instead of unity, he advocates for walls, divisions, and discrimination. And it’s not just him, as several of his co-runners have followed suit.
The Republican Congress has given wings to the anti-immigrant segment of the electorate, all the while invoking the name of God and his teachings, which seems particularly cynical.
Last week I was touched to read a Univision.com article by journalist Jorge Cancino about some of the immigrants who will attend the Pope’s address to the joint session of Congress, particularly a little girl named Jersey Vargas who last year went to the Vatican to ask Pope Francis to help make sure her father was not deported. He was not, but he remains undocumented and one step away from deportation.
Of the Pope, Jersey said: “He is very miraculous and hopefully he can change the hearts of Republicans so that they approve immigration reform.”
Many hope for the same miracle.
Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor at America’s Voice.