Dear Pope Francis,
The United States eagerly awaits your visit.
Many of us, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, are excited about the direction you are taking the Church. We have witnessed you warmly embrace the marginalized people in our world - the disfigured, dirty and downtrodden. We have watched you wash the feet of the poor. You have shown a tremendous heart for refugees, and you have encouraged us to do the same. You have pledged billions of dollars and other resources to welcoming the displaced men, women and children pouring into Europe from war-torn parts of our world. You have even opened your own home to refugees.
You have shown us that the love of Christ is meant for all people -- not just those who adhere to the Christian faith. You have reminded us that Christians are commanded to love others as ourselves, and that means loving others with everything, from our finances to our government policies.
You have seemingly softened the Roman Catholic stance on homosexuality, divorce and abortion, allowing more room for grace and mercy to enter into the complex realities of human relationships. You have opened the door for healing to take place in the lives of people who have felt hurt and rejected by the Church. You have directed the Church to acknowledge and take responsibility for global climate change.
You have admitted the Roman Catholic Church needs to work on its theology of women. You have said the door to priesthood in your denomination is still closed to women, but perhaps this theological work could lead you, like many others, to consider why the Roman Catholic Church would deny ordination to half of the world's population based on gender alone.
When arrive in the United States, I hope you will speak boldly to us. Americans need to be accountable. As it is written in the Gospel of Luke, "To whom much is given, much is required." (Luke 12:48) Our wealthy and privileged nation can do so much more to meet the needs of the people in this world. We have the means to ease suffering, heal the sick and provide for the poor.
Likewise, I hope our citizens can hold you accountable. As the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics, you have the ability to effect sweeping change for those Jesus calls in Matt 25:40-43 "the least of these" -- the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the prisoners. There is much work to be done by Roman Catholics and all of us who call ourselves Christian. You are leading us in the right direction, but please don't stop. Don't give up. Don't give in. Boldly press onward.
Remember that you are the face of Christ to the world.
Do not be dissuaded by those who would withhold God's love, grace and mercy to all of humankind. Jesus gave everything he had for every one of us. As Christians, we must do nothing short of the same.
A fellow Christian
Rev. Dr. Sunny Farley