Why The Pope’s Visit to the U.S. Inspires Gainesville Catholics

Joel Ainsworth plays piano at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Wednesday morning. He said Pope Francis is welcoming more people to the Catholic Church.

Elena Castello, a sophomore at UF, has wanted to see the pope since she was a young girl. She has been to Italy, but said she wishes she was there during Pope Francis’ term. After she finishes her two tests on Thursday, she will be traveling to Philadelphia to support him.

“There’s going to be 1.5 million people,” Castello said. “So you say like ‘oh there’s going to be 1 million people,’ but there are literally going to be a million people there just as excited as I am to see the pope in person.”

Pope Francis made his first visit to the U.S. this week. Today in Washington he gave his first direct address to the nation, and he discussed climate change, Cuba and immigration.

Others cannot take time off to see the pope. Joel Ainsworth has been the music director at the 11 a.m. Sunday mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Gainesville for the past 14 years.

Ainsworth said the pope is focusing more on forgiveness and welcoming more people to the Catholic church. “Seeing people in mass in the past that I would maybe think ‘what are they doing here, I’ve never seen them before, like please don’t yell out,’ to where now I’m kind of glad that people like that are at the church and that they feel comfortable to come to the church.”

Priest Frank Iacona of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Gainesville said he thought the pope would discuss issues such as the refugee crisis, the environment and capitalism. He said the pope is making people more aware that there is a God and to helping them connect with that God, no matter their faith.

“Particularly as this time, with the beginnings of the next election already taking place, perhaps this will inspire those running for office that there is more to running for office than simply whether or not you or your party wins, rather what is best for our country and our world,” Iacona said.

Pope Francis will be visiting New York on Thursday and Philadelphia on Saturday morning.

As Castello travels to Philadelphia, she said she is excited to be with everyone and see what he has to say.

“I think the people are excited, even the non-Catholics, and will be surprised by what he has to say,” she said.

About Sarah Kimbro

Sarah is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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