DignityUSA Plans for Pope Francis’ First U.S. Visit

by Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA Executive Director

Have you heard? Pope Francis will be in the U.S. this month! During his historic trip to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, the Pope will meet with President Obama, address a joint session of Congress, speak to the United Nations General Assembly, and lead Mass following the World Meeting of Families. This visit has already sparked electric anticipation among many, intensive media interest in all things Catholic, and a scramble to develop effective responses among people hoping the papal visit helps to move their agenda forward.

DignityUSA has been planning for this visit for nearly a year. While the Pope’s plane doesn’t touch down for weeks yet, we are ready for his arrival! Here’s what we have done and will be doing during the Pope’s time in our country:

  • We authored and spearheaded, along with GLAAD, a letter to the Pope signed by 32 Catholic, Latino, and LGBT organizations outlining why it is so critical that he meet with LGBT Catholics and families. This effort was featured in the New York Times. As of this writing, no response has been received.
  • We are partnering with our Equally Blessed colleagues to sponsor a Pilgrimage of 12 families to make LGBT families visible at the World Meeting of Families. Half of these families have Dignity ties. They will be present throughout the meeting to bear witness to the realities of our lives. You may have seen stories about our programming being kicked out of the parish that had offered to host us, and our relocation to a Methodist Church. Ironically, our hospitality/program center is now closer to the convention center and official World Meeting of Families activities!
  • We have helped to develop The Papal Visit: A journalist’s guide to reporting on Pope Francis and the LGBT community and Good Catholic Answers to Conservative Questions to help shape how the media covers the Pope’s impact on the LGBT community, and to empower progressive Catholics with effective public messages.
  • We have provided two sessions of media training for Dignity leaders from around the country, with the assistance of GLAAD.
  • We are helping to sponsor the Church 4 All campaign, along with other members of Catholic Organizations for Renewal. This initiative helps to shape the local focus on the Pope’s Visit, providing resources for everyone involved in issues of importance to Catholics hoping for a more just and inclusive Church.
  • We cosponsored and sent speakers to the late July Forum on Women in the Catholic Church: What Pope Francis Needs to Know. (DignityUSA is featured in hour 6 of the video!)
  • Even this far in advance, we have conducted dozens of media interviews, getting our message out to tens of thousands of people all across the country and around the world.

Many of our Chapters, Caucuses, and members will be doing intensive media outreach, coordinating local prayer services and vigils, and participating in events connected with the Pope’s trips. Dignity/Washington members will be standing along the Pope’s route to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, with signs made just for this occasion.Look for photos on social media and in the October Dateline. Follow the Pilgrims’ blogs, and support our outreach with prayer and messages on the Pilgrimage website and Facebook page. And if the Pope answers our letter with an agreement to meet, we will surely let you know!