Author Speaks on Pope Francis in America


Fordham hosted a talk with Paul Vallely, an ethics writer, who has published two biographies of Pope Francis. (ANA FOTA/THE OBSERVER)


On Monday, Sept. 14, Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRRE) hosted a discussion of Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to New York and Philadelphia with Paul Vallely, a writer and consultant on ethics, religion and international development. Vallely has published two biographies of Pope Francis, Pope Francis – Untying the Knots and Pope Francis – The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism, published in 2013 and 2015 respectively. A book signing of Vallely’s latest book followed his lecture. The event, co-sponsored by Bloomsbury Publishing, took place in the 12th floor lounge of the Lincoln Center campus’s Lowenstein building. Vallely is also a visiting professor in public ethics at the University of Chester in Chester, England.

The lecture, entitled “Pope Francis – Bringing the Message of a Poor Church to the Richest Nation in the World,” gave the audience the opportunity to hear Vallely’s perspective on the Pope’s upcoming New York visit and what messages he expects to hear the Pope deliver to U.S. politicians, Bishops and world leaders. The focus of the lecture was the Pope’s relatively progressive ideologies regarding – among other social issues – abortion and marriage annulments. Pope Francis is “orthodox yet revolutionary,” according to Vallely.

Vallely anticipates the Pope’s prime emphasis to be engaging with ordinary people, not just the political elite. He stressed that Pope Francis “sees the world from the bottom up, not the top down,” and that this will directly impact how he will engage with the American people. “The Pope will be speaking to America but knows that the whole world will be listening,” he said. Amid waning popularity ratings in the U.S., Vallely also anticipates a reversal in the Pope’s popularity ratings with this visit to New York and Philadelphia.

“The work being done at Fordham is something that the Pope would be enthused and pleased by.”- Paul Vallely

Jodi Hunt, one of the organizers of the event and director of admissions for the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, hopes that Pope Francis’s visit to New York “re-enlivens students’ interest in Catholicism, faith and religion,” she said.  According to Hunt, she wants students to pay attention to Pope Francis’s message of lifting up the marginalized and she also hoped that the Pope’s visit will give students a “sense of energy that what they do matters.”

Author Paul Vallely speaking about the current pontiff's messages of peace. (ANA FOTA/ THE OBSERVER)
Author Paul Vallely speaking about the current pontiff’s messages of peace. (ANA FOTA/ THE OBSERVER)

As a Jesuit institution and an institution committed to teaching its students the values and messages of Catholic social teaching, Vallely commented that, “the work being done at Fordham is something that the Pope would be enthused and pleased by.” When asked what Fordham students should take away from the Pope’s visit and message Vallely said, “The Pope would say don’t look to me, look to Jesus. Looking at the Pope and the Pope’s visit is only the starting point.” Vallely suggests that students take this visit as something to spur action.

The Fordham community is located in close proximity to Pope Francis’s scheduled Central Park visit, yet the Pope does not intend to visit the University.

When asked if he thought the Pope should have planned a visit to Fordham, the Jesuit University of New York, Vallely responded, “No. I think he would have higher standards of expectation of the Jesuit community.” Vallely reasoned that the Pope would believe that “the Jesuit community will know the right ways to put the Gospel into action.” He asserted that the Pope expects the Jesuit community to look to Jesus and to already be well on the way of the path in line with Catholic teachings.