Pope Francis to Skip Lunch With Congressmen, Will Eat With DC’s Homeless Community Instead

By dining with the less-fortunate, the Pontiff sends a powerful message to Washington’s elite.

image via wikimedia commons

Pope Francis’ speech to a joint session of congress on Thursday is being heralded as one of the most significant political events in Washington D.C. in recent memory. The Pontiff discussed a range of issues, including poverty, our responsibilities to this planet, and the continuing political and moral challenges surrounding immigration to the United States. But while any speech to a congressional body is inherently political, Pope Francis has made it clear that he’s not there to play politics as usual.

Following his speech, Pope Francis has reportedly chosen to skip a number of invitations to dine with members of congress, including Speaker of the House John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Instead, he has opted to spend his lunch both serving, and eating with members of Washington’s homeless community. The pope is scheduled to visit St. Patrick’s Church, and the Catholic Charities of the DC archdiocese, where he will bless a meal of chicken, salad, green beans and brownies for around three hundred poor and homeless diners.

Speaking with the Washington City Paper, Catholic Charities’ Washington-branch communications director Erik Salmi explained:

We expect [the pope] to be like a maître d’ at a restaurant. There’s not a lot that’s scripted; rather, we want him to have as much time to greet people [and] spend time with them as possible. He’s big with people on the margins of society, those that tend to get overlooked.

It’s a move that is both bold in its symbolism–an eschewing of the hobnobbing that is the currency of the capital’s powerful and elite–and entirely appropriate for a Pope who has made outreach to those one the margins of our society the centerpiece of his papacy. Earlier this year, Francis invited one hundred and fifty homeless men and women to an exclusive tour of the Vatican, during which he surprised guests with a personal appearance.

Pope Francis’ political views, from his focus poverty, to his stance on LGBTQ rights and abortion, cannot be easily claimed by a single political party. Democrats, and Republicans alike will likely find moments of his speech that will not cleanly align with their own beliefs; It speaks to Francis’ ability to share a message that is fundamentally different from the partisan cacophony that tends to drown out actual political progress. But throughout his tenure as Pope, Francis has made a point to do more than simply share a powerful message. By opting to spend his lunch with Washington’s less fortunate, the Pope is demonstrating a humility and commitment to service that surpasses oratory and pomp. Instead, he is leading by example, and in doing so, has implicitly raised the bar for what we should expect from our elected officials. It’s not enough to simply admonish and inspire from a podium. Instead, one must act, and do so without reservation or pride.

To Francis, leadership stems from truly serving the community–the whole community–regardless of whose lunch plans you have to turn down, in the process.

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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