Since last night, and through this morning, I kept checking social media and Google News to see if Pope Francis was back in Rome yet. I kept finding stories about his last day in Iraq, and even stories saying he was wheels-up leaving Iraq. But nothing showing him having safely landed.
Finally, I found this on the Vatican’s news service:
Pope Francis makes a brief visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for her protection during his visit to Iraq.
Well, thank God. And his mother, too, although not being a cradle Catholic myself, I don’t habitually think in those terms. (Marian devotion is one of those things that I’ve mentioned before that cause me to think, I suppose these Catholics do these things…)
And now, I can be glad he went to Iraq, despite so many urging him not to. I still wish he hadn’t had those huge gatherings with the often maskless people (not for his sake — he’s had his shots — but for the sakes of the maskless people and all they will come in contact with). But I’m glad he met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and talked tolerance. I’m glad he went to Mosul and talked about the terrible cost of religious fanaticism. I think he made a positive impression, and it will do good.
But boy, am I glad he’s back. Because we need Pope Francis. The Church needs him — especially the American Church. Joe Biden, our second Catholic president, needs him, because Francis has Joe’s back. I need him, for some of the same reasons Joe does. The Catholics who voted for Trump need him even more, even though they probably don’t realize it. Iraq needs him. The world needs this man to be at the head of the Church right now.
And I think it’s great he now wants to go to Lebanon. But I hope he waits, at least until COVID is behind us. People — especially Christians — in these countries are thrilled to have him visit. And while I prefer not to see him taking risks, I don’t want to see them be enticed into taking risks, either….