Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl
WASHINGTON - Pope Francis arrives in Washington D.C. on Tuesday and the excitement level is growing.
He will meet with the President Barack Obama, celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and speak to Congress.
Meanwhile, among those accompanying the pope is Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
When Pope Francis arrives, few people will have the kind of close contact Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl will. He is expected to be by the pontiff's side at virtually every step.
Like many people, he is also excited about the visit.
He said there is just something special about this pope who has captured the imagination of even those who aren't Catholic.
“I think it’s a combination of two things -- he is a very simple person, so he speaks in a way that we all can understand,” said Wuerl. “Everybody can understand his message to love God, to respect one another, to care for one another, but then there's a certain authenticity. When he speaks, you know he's saying what he truly believes.”
And that belief is in a simple message of love. It is a message that has resonated as the pope has shown a willingness to address controversial issues of the day -- from abortion to immigration and more.
“He speaks directly and clearly, but out of a basis that we can all understand,” Cardinal Wuerl told us. “He’s saying, ‘Look folks, there is such a thing as human solidarity. We’re all brothers and sisters. We're all sharing this planet. We can’t allow this type of suffering to go on and turn our backs.’”
Wuerl calls it the “Francis Effect.” It’s where people impressed with the pontiff's message pledge do something to better themselves.
“Just pledge to yourself to do something good for somebody else,” he said. “Pledge to say a prayer for someone, pledge to just do something for someone who has a need. People willingly accept that because they feel this is their way of walking with Francis.”
Long after he has gone back to the Vatican and we have all returned to our daily lives, what does Cardinal Wuerl hope resonates with people with Pope Francis' visit?
“There's great excitement now [and] there's even euphoria over the pope’s coming, but the real effect I think is going to be in the wake of his visit -- the efforts of people to actually do what he calls us to do,” said Wuerl. “And imagine what that would be like if after he leaves, we take to heart his message that we can work together. That means not everybody is going to get it entirely their way, but surely we can all sit down and work things out so everybody has an opportunity to have a better life.
“He's also going to leave an ingredient that we need to hear and that is each one of us has a relationship with God. Open your heart to God and let God speak, and it’s in that relationship that each one of us is going to have a fuller and richer life and experience of a spiritual life. I think those are going to be the things that he leaves as his legacy of this visit.”