Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego's Catholic Bishop Discusses Pope's Visit To U.S.

This undated photo shows Bishop Robert McElroy.
Roman Catholic Church Diocese
This undated photo shows Bishop Robert McElroy.
San Diego’s Catholic Bishop Discusses Pope’s Visit To U.S.
San Diego's Catholic Bishop Discusses Pope's Visit To U.S.
San Diego's Catholic Bishop Discusses Pope's Visit To U.S. GUEST: Robert McElroy, bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy is here to discuss the Pope's visit to America. There is lots of employment help to hundreds of laid off QUALCOMM employees in San Diego. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Is Sunday, September 21. Here is some of the San Diego stories we are following in the KPBS newsroom. San Diego school board Vice President Jonna Lee Evans is calling for an independent investigation into mounting allegations of the use of power against Board President. A special closed-door meeting to discuss San Diego unified's legal options and a board leadership is set for tomorrow. The California Republican Party has voted to soften its stance on immigration. It is seeking to appeal to the states growing Latino population and distance itself from the rhetoric of President. candidate Donald Trump. A flash flood watch is in effect for the valleys, mountains, and deserts until tomorrow afternoon. Forecasters say the heaviest rain is likely this afternoon. Listen for the latest news right here on KPBS. Our top story on Midday Edition, crowds in the millions are expecting to greet Pope Francis during his visit to America this week. He arrives in the US tomorrow. His public acts of humility and his statements of tolerance, Francis has gained extraordinary popularity during his brief rain. This week's visit is headline news. What does all of this mean for our regions 1 million Catholics? How will America respond to the Pope's sometimes challenging messages about justice and compassion? Joining me to discuss the Pope's visit to America is my guess, the most Reverend. Robert McElroy caught vision of San Diego. Welcome to the program. It is great to be here Maureen. How significant is this visit for San Diego? For us, as Catholics, the visit of the Pope to the United States has two important dimensions. The first is that it calls us to look into our own lives of faith and encounter with God invites us once more to encounter the message of Pope Francis. We understand that we are called to live by the light of the gospel as Catholics were called to aim high, but know that all of us fail in various ways living out the message of the gospel. It is precisely in those moments at the mercy and the love of God most embrace us. The first impact of the Pope's visit is to call us once again to engage in those spiritual realities which are at the core of our faith. The second level is how we are called to transform the world in light of our faith. How we are called to live out the call to mercy of love and understanding and compassion and justice and truth. In our various roles within family life, within the life of society as workers, as citizens and believers. On those two dimensions, the Pope is going to speak to us. I think this Pope is going to speak to us, not just with words, but with symbols and gestures. When you mentioned that we are far away in a sense because the Pope is on the East Coast, the wave that Pope Francis has had the maximum impact of people throughout the world are the symbols and simple gestures that he engages in. They communicate a deep and profound an authentic sense of Christlike witness. I think the one time that he was in Rome with a large crowd outside the Vatican and going around to see various people, and a woman came up to him and asked if he could bless her husband. She warned the Pope that he has a terrible skin cancer and lesions all over his face. When the Pope got there, that was the case. This man had terrible lesions that covered the whole of his face and his head. The Pope blessed him and then kissed his head where the legions were. The man was grotesque in his appearance, and yet the Pope embraced him with such love and tenderness. That is the sort of symbol that the Pope is going to communicate through those symbols to us when he is here. He will speak to us about what it means to be Christlike in this world in which we live in. That is why he's going to visit the jails for the poor and marginalized. All of those places where human suffering occurs in our midst, and I think that is going to be the primary focus. It is been widely reported that you are handpicked by Pope Francis to succeed the late Bishop Loris here in San Diego. What was the Pope hoping that you would bring to the diocese. In a very real sense, the Pope selects every Bishop in the formal process. I do believe that the Pope has enunciated a set of criteria that he would like the ships to try to follow. Those mean, first of all, trying to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in its authenticity. Secondly, it means reaching out to embrace everyone in terms of the life of the church and to communicate that all are welcome in the Catholic family. The Pope gave a wonderful homily some months ago when he said that the life of the church is a tendency to cast out rather than reinstate. It comes from a desire to emphasize that there is a content to the call of the Christian moral life. It is based on the virtues of Christ which are not easy to live. What the Pope said in that homily is that it is always important to be bringing people in and welcoming them and making them feel at home in the life of the church. We do not want to give into the tendency to cast people out by putting so much emphasis on human failures that people feel alienated and feel they are not welcome or the loved in the community of the church. They are certainly loved by God. If there is one quality that the Pope has indicated time and again, it is that quality of emphasizing the mercy and the love of God and inclusiveness in the life of the church. Dish up, you unveiled a plaque in the San yesterday and it was dedicated to families separated by deportation. The plaque quotes Pope Francis same church without borders, mother of all. There are many Americans who truly believe that you should not be entering this country illegally and the church should not be providing them with aid. What do you say to them? I believe that Catholic teaching proclaims that people should not be entering the country illegally. Catholic teaching says that every nation has the right to control their own borders. There are some instances of grave refugee crises were every nation has a responsibility. We're seeing that in Europe now. Every nation has a moral responsibility to take people in in those moments of crisis. There is a general rule that Catholic teaching says that all nations have the right to control their own borders. The issue that we are faced with here in the United States, is the fact that we have 11 million undocumented immigrants who have been here, many for decades. They have raised their children here and work hard every day. They have built families who have done nothing more than to try to do what all of us do as Americans, and love embodied in so many ways the American dream. We have to deal with that group of the undocumented. We have two choices. We can either recognize that they came to this nation in the same spirit that every generation in previous ages came to the United States. We are a nation of immigrants. We cannot lose sight of that. If we do, we forsake our American heritage. We are a nation of immigrants, and we have to approach this solution to this problem of immigration reform with the justice and the care for the immigrants that has characterized us at our best in every generation. It represents who we are in our history and in our future. I am speaking to the Bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy. Over the past few months, the Pope has presented a more tolerant of view about a number of controversial topics from homosexuality to abortion and divorce in the Catholic Church. How significant are these statements, and what I mean by that, is that do they really change anything? It does not change doctorate. What I was saying before, is that there is a certain content to the Gospel and the call of the gospel. We believe in the church that that content is the call to which we are to aspire in our lives. It is across the whole of these topics in our family life and personal life, and in our life as citizens and believers. We are called to live by those teachings. At the same time, I think that what has been emphasize much more by Pope Francis, is that when we fail, and all of us do in various areas of our life, that the issue of judgmental-ism should not be what we meet. Judge mentalism is a great cancer in the life of church and humanity. If you look at the Gospels, there is no sin and that Jesus speaks about more frequently than that of judgmental-ism. It is so odd that human beings feel better about themselves when they can point to someone else and to their failure and say that they have failed. In this, I feel better about myself. That is a very odd and deformed part of our humanity. The Pope has made a great centerpiece of his mission to help us to understand that we are all called to challenge ourselves and to speak challengingly at times to others. Do not engage in judge mentalism and understand that all of us fail in a whole series of issues in our lives. One of the big things that the Pope is going to do for the American church is canonize the Spanish missionary pioneer who is the founder of California's missions. Father Sarah's a methods of converting indigenous people have been criticized in modern times. Is elevating him to sainthood a contradictory message from this Pope? It is a message which brings some difficulties with it. I want to distinguish between those two elements. I believe that father Sarah is being canonized for two reasons. One is his missionary efforts. His desire to spread the gospel speaks to a new era that all the space in the life of the church which is to live as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. Really believe and understand that we are called to transform the world according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Secondly, I believe Sarah's canonization flows from the fact that it speaks to the Hispanic presence in history within the United States. I majored in history on the East Coast, and I can tell you that California history and the history of the West was almost totally ignored. What this canonization represents in a very real sense is an affirmation of the presence of the Hispanic community and in the life of the church in American history. Those are the two goals of the canonization. The problem that comes alongside of those and is inextricably linked with those two goals is that Sarah is coming also coincided with the decimation of the Indian cultures and peoples. I met with various Native American communities, and I one of those meetings a man stood up and said I believe Sarah is a good man. I believe he is a saint. I believe he is with God. He said his proclamation of Sarah's sainthood is very hard for us to accept because on the symbolic level it is impossible to separate out the good things that Sarah brought. He brought the faith which is the centerpiece of my life. It is impossible for us to separate the things on a symbolic level of the destruction of our culture of people. That is the dilemma. There is no doubt that the Catholic Church here and all of the world is still effected by the crimes of sexual abuse of children committed by priests. Do you believe the church has done enough to heal that wound? I don't think the church will ever have done enough. In part because enough means making sure we never fall back into complacency on this issue. There has been a whole series of steps that the church has undertaken in terms of educational efforts, in terms of the supervision of priests and laity within life of the church to try to make the church a place of safety for young people. More than that, to try to educate parents of the wider society of the reality of the sexual abuse of children which occurs in a whole variety of settings outside of the church. So we made a lot of progress in doing that. Have we done enough? No. We have not done enough. We need to continue to proclaim that message because it is a human reality that is not going to go away. We have to make sure that we don't fall into complacency. If we ever say we have done enough, that is the sign that complacency is back in our hearts on this. That would be a huge error. Bishop, what events is the diocese holding to coincide with the Pope's visit? Have you got anything special coming up to Mark the special visit by Francis? We have an oddity in our diocese where the annual meeting of the priests of the diocese is taking place this week. It was scheduled before the people visit was scheduled. I won't be back in Washington because of that. I am going to be with the priests of the diocese. We are all there. So as a matter fact, we are not doing a public act in solidarity. As priests, we will be gathering around the main events and celebrating mass. After this is all over, we are going to have some celebrations at the mission to demarcate this question. One of those will be is about the whole question of the Indian communities and how we honor them in an appropriate way. Finally, Pope Francis is being called by some a rock star Pope. What you think it is about him that is making him so popular even with people who are not Catholic? I have to say, that the funniest element of this, is some months ago GQ awarded Pope Francis its best dressed man of the year award. When I saw that, I thought it was tongue-in-cheek but they actually wrote an editorial about it. I looked at it, and what it said was this. Every year we give out an award for the best dressed man in the world. Usually, that is meant to convey a person who has most effectively used how they dress to convey the message that they want to convey. Usually that message is that I look really good in close. We believe that Pope Francis's message is that of simplicity. He is dressed in different ways, he is dressed down for Pope. In doing so he has communicated effectively that message. I think this Pope has a magnificent sense of gesture and symbol that really touches us. It is authentic. When he went and washed the feet of the young men and women on holy Thursday that first year, that is very touching. I think that is how it communicates to us. He is appalled by this notion of rockstar, because he, like every faith filled proclaimer of the gospel, wants to point not to himself, but to Christ always. His gestures are doing that, but sometimes they can get confused. It is important for us to distinguish that. I want to thank you so much Bishop Robert McElroy. Thank you for coming in. Thank you Maureen. > KPBS will provide live coverage's speech to Congress this Thursday morning. Coming up, the San Diego economic development Corporation is helping QUALCOMM employees find local jobs.

Crowds in the millions are expected to greet Pope Francis during his visit to America this week. He arrives in the U.S. on Tuesday.

The Pope has gained extraordinary popularity during his brief reign, through his public acts of humility and his statements of tolerance.

Bishop Robert McElroy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego said the Pope's presence will be felt across the U.S. even though he's only visiting the East Coast.

"For us, as Catholics, a visit of the Pope calls for us to look at our loves," McElroy told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. "(He) will speak to us about what it means to be Christ-like."

McElroy spoke about a time when the Pope spoke in Rome and a woman asked him to bless her ill husband.

"The Pope blessed him and kissed his head where the lesions were," McElroy said. "The man was grotesque in his appearance but the Pope embraced him."

McElroy said the Pope has built a platform around the issue of being judgmental.

"(Being judgmental) is a great cancer in the life of the church," McElroy said. "That is a very odd and deformed part of our humanity."

During the Pope's visit, he'll also canonize Father Junipero Serra, who founded missions in California. But the decision has been criticized, with opponents saying Serra punished Native Americans.

McElroy said the canonization of Serra brings a message of difficulties, but it's meant to highlight the Hispanics in the U.S.