16 "Pilgrims" pushing for immigration reform and economic justice
Pope Francis has arrived in the United States, and working people who support the pope’s messages — from inequality to immigration — have arrived in Washington, where the pontiff will spend the next two and a half days before heading to New York and Philadelphia.
Among the hundreds of thousands who want to see the pope are 16 “Pilgrims” who are part of the push for commonsense immigration reform as well as the Fight for $15 movement. All of them are members of the Roman Catholic Church that the pontiff leads, and they have been inspired in recent years by the messages of hope that resonate in the context of their campaigns for justice and solidarity.
“We hope the ‘People’s Pope’ encourages Congress to put people over politics. The time is now,” said SEIU International Executive Vice President Rocio Sáenz at an event featuring SEIU and Mi Familia Vota welcoming the Pilgrims this afternoon. “(The pope) will talk about love for immigrants. He will talk about compassion… When he talks, it’s going to hopefully open the hearts and minds of leaders.”
“As a human race, we can be excited” about Pope Francis’ visit regardless of our religion or lack thereof, added SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry, because he is focused on issues that matter to working men and women.
The Pilgrims themselves echoed that sentiment. “There are millions of women... living in poverty (despite) working full-time. That’s wrong," said Antoinette Quintyne, a member of 1199SEIU, who expressed her hope that Pope Francis would call attention to the need for decent wages.
- An op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by St. Louis University (SLU) adjunct faculty member Julian Long argued for economic justice. SLU is a Jesuit university; the pope himself is a member of the Jesuit religious order. “The new direction that Pope Francis seems to be giving the church gives me hope the Jesuit system might lead Catholic higher education to a renewed affirmation of the church’s historic commitment to social justice that might serve as a beacon for higher education at large,” Long wrote.
SEIU and Faculty Forward Network activists across the country are echoing Pope Francis' message. Long participated in a “Fast for Faculty” earlier this month to highlight the inequities that adjunct faculty face, including low levels of compensation, few or no benefits, lack of institutional support for research and scholarship and exclusion from the governance of their institutions. Long noted Jesuit schools are not immune from these trends. Values that Pope Francis regularly lifts up, Long wrote, “are especially needed on both Catholic and non-Catholic campuses.”
- In case you missed it: In an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Henry explained how the focus of this "people's pope" on the value of work will spark a nationwide conversation about issues that matter to working families. “(Pope Francis') leadership and presence in the midst of our divided nation can inspire us to take what seems impossible and make it possible by penetrating our national consciousness to focus on the things that really matter,” she wrote.
For updates on the Pilgrims’ journey with the pope and other events tied to the visit of Pope Francis to the United States, follow @SEIU and #PeoplesPope on Twitter.