WASHINGTON - The arrival of Pope Francis in D.C. next week has many local Catholics hoping that his visit marks the arrival of a new era for churches in our area.
While the pope is popular, the church in the U.S. has been fighting to increase attendance. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who leads the church in Washington, called the visit a chance for Catholics to “come home.”
“The joy, the excitement and the enthusiasm, and I’m finding that all over our community,” said Cardinal Wuerl.
College students like Morgan Sanei are concerned that too many Catholics have led themselves away from church.
"Yes, I have seen that very much, especially in people my age – 20-year-olds don't want to go to Mass anymore,” said Sanei.
While loyalty among those who have stayed is strong, a new study by the Pew Research Center this week finds 52 percent of adults raised as Catholics have left the church at some point. While issues like abortion, divorce, women’s rights, marriage equality and the church’s own sex abuse scandal have been contributing factors, many are hoping Pope Francis’ tone will bring new people to church on Sundays.
John Gehring of the group Faith in Public Life is the author of “The Francis Effect.”
“The Catholic Church in the United States is really at a crossroads moment,” Gehring said. "I think what separates Pope Francis from many church leaders is he's willing to look at the church in a critical way. He says sometimes we're doing it wrong. "
In addition to visiting the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis will visit two other D.C. churches: Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
HERE'S THE POPE'S COMPLETE D.C. SCHEDULE:
Tuesday, September 22, 2015:
- Pope Francis will begin his pastoral visit to the United States with his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in the afternoon.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015:
- Welcoming ceremony at the White House followed by a private meeting with President Obama.
- Parade around the White House Ellipse and along the National Mall
- Midday prayer with the bishops of the United States at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle.
- Mass in the afternoon on the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the University Mall at The Catholic University of America. During the Mass, the pope will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra.
Thursday, September 24, 2015:
- Address joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the morning.
- Visit St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in D.C. and meet with several clients of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington in late morning.
- Blessing and brief remarks to the clients gathered at lunchtime for the St. Maria Meals Program of the Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Washington.
- Depart for New York City from Andrews Air Force Base.