The Initiative on Catholic Social Thought held its second dialogue focusing on poverty under the Pontificate of Pope Francis Monday night in Gaston Hall.

From left to right: Bishop Steven Blaire, Kathryn Jean Lopez, moderator John Carr, Michael Gerson and E.J. Dionne. COURTESY GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
From left to right: Bishop Steven Blaire, Kathryn Jean Lopez, moderator John Carr, Michael Gerson and E.J. Dionne. COURTESY GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

The event, “The Pope and the Poor: Challenges of Pope Francis and Catholic Social Thought for American Poverty,” featured Washington Post columnists E.J. Dionne and Michael Gerson, National Review Online Editor-at-Large Kathryn Jean Lopez and Stephen Blaire, the bishop of Stockton, Calif.

The initiative, led by Director John Carr, stemmed from an idea from the Office of University President John J. DeGioia that aims to advance Catholic social teaching in relation to current political, social and economic issues, with the intent to promote the common good.

Speakers asserted Pope Francis is unique in his approach to remediating the challenges of the poor because he is willing to challenge Church convention by emphasizing tenets long ignored.

“The reason that Francis is so powerful and attractive is that he talks like Jesus and acts like Jesus,”Gerson said. “A Church that looked like this could transform the world.”

Conversely, other speakers asserted that the strength of Pope Francis’ approach to poverty does not lie in his strategy, but in the simplicity with which he communicates the problems of the poor.

“Pope Francis is speaking the Gospel in a common language that we can understand,” Blaire said. “He is speaking as a pastor who has been on the streets with his people in Buenos Aires.”

Panelists acknowledged the pope’s dissemination of message through comparatively modern methods, such as interviews with secular journalists, daily homilies and televised acts of charity and compassion.

The panelists also discussed the pope’s call for Catholics to take action against the injustice of poverty in society.

“Catholics all too often do not show lives that are different and conform to the Gospel,” Lopez said. “But if the pope can find time for other people, so can you.”

The speakers also mentioned the implications of the pope’s message, as Pope Francis has emphasized the need for unity between Catholics of both major American political parties in order to ably combat this problem.

Students in attendance felt the discussion caused them to reflect on their own roles in combating poverty and in the church.

“I was motivated to follow the role that Francis gives the Church when he said, ‘I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,’” Patrick Denenea (COL ’17) said.

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