LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron says Pope Francis was invited to come to Detroit as part of his current U.S. trip, but the pontiff may visit the Motor City during his next American visit.

“That didn’t work out, but maybe next time, is what people are saying to me,” Vigneron said in an interview this week.

Vigneron attended a meeting of the U.S. bishops Wednesday with the pope. It was followed by an outdoor Mass where Francis is canonizing the first Hispanic-American saint, Junipero Serra, who is known for spreading Christianity in California.

Vigneron said he was looking forward to the canonization ceremony because of his ties to the Diocese of Oakland, California, where he was bishop for six years. It was also home to one of the Catholic missions founded after Serra died.

“The successor of Father Serra, the leader of the Franciscans, actually lived in my diocese, so I feel a particular connection to the missions, and I’m very happy to be present at his canonization,” Vigneron said.

It has been a whirlwind day for Francis, who began with a Wednesday morning welcoming ceremony at the White House with President Barack Obama.

The pope said “all are called to be vigilant” in defending religious liberty from anything that would threaten it. It was a theme the Michigan Catholic Conference emphasized on its Twitter feed.

Obama touched on the topic, among other subjects, saying “people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and intimidation.”

The pontiff also noted America’s history as a “nation built by immigrants” and the inclusiveness nature of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.

“American Catholics are committed to building a society that’s inclusive (and) ... rejects every form of discrimination,” Francis said to applause from the 11,000 people who attended the White House event.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, who attended the ceremony with other mayors from around the country, said he was deeply moved by the event and Francis’ message on reconciliation and freedom.

“At the end, he commented on the need for an inclusive model of development. That hit home for me because that’s exactly what we need to continue to work towards in Flint,” Walling said.

“In our communities in Michigan, we have to make sure there’s greater economic opportunities for people of all backgrounds and ages.”

Francis’ call for Americans to confront injustice and discrimination also resonated because that’s “one way we’re going to build the inclusive, sustainable economy that we need,” he said.

Martin Manna, executive director of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce in Bingham Farms, attended the welcoming ceremony but had a hard time hearing Francis’ speech from his seat on the South Lawn.

“We could hear most of what the president had to say, which from my point of view was welcome news, given the struggles we’ve had with persecuted minorities, basically in the Middle East,” Manna said. “I just wish the (Obama) administration would take more action.”

As the State Department boosts the number of refugees it takes in this year and next, Manna wants federal officials to be more accepting of not only Syrian refugees but also Iraqis, especially the most vulnerable refugees including ethnic and religious minorities, he said.

Persecution of those minorities, including Christians in Iraq and Syria, is something that Manna hopes Francis will talk about when he addresses Congress on Thursday.

Manna said Francis’ visit has already sparked action in Washington, including a bipartisan resolution introduced this month in the U.S. House of Representatives denouncing as “genocide” the violence against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.

mburke@detroitnews.com

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://detne.ws/1KvMTgQ