Pope Francis hosted a virtual audience with Catholics across the ocean for the first time in papal history.
He digitally met with Catholics from three U.S. cities including border town McAllen, Texas, where he spoke to members of Sacred Heart Parish, according to ABC News, which arranged the “virtual town hall.” The parish is home to a respite center for immigrants.
ABC’s “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir moderated the audience from the Vatican.
The pope listened to members of each community and their stories, offered advice and answered questions.
Ricardo Ortiz, 19, whose father brought him to America when he was four, spoke for the immigrant Catholic community.
Ortiz had a relatively peaceful elementary and middle school experience, but when he reached high school, his life took a different turn. He became the breadwinner for his family of six as a teenager after his father was in an accident and could no longer work.
Ortiz received a university scholarship for soccer, but he was denied admittance because of his undocumented status.
Pope Francis responded to Ortiz’s story by stating that Jesus too experienced poverty and injustice.
“There are many injustices, but as a believer and a Christian to know that the one who embodies all of these things is Jesus,” the pope said. “Jesus was born on the street. He was born a homeless person. In looking to the example of Jesus we move forward.”
Junior MaryJane Plote approved of the pope’s audience, particularly with the McAllen parish.
“[Holding an audience in McAllen] was a beautiful thing to do,” Plote said. “Pope Francis gave attention to people who just don’t get [attention].”
Plote grew up in the border town of El Paso, referred to as the “BorderPlex.” The distance from the Patrick E. Haggerty Science Center to Haggar University Center is the same as the distance from her elementary school to Mexico.
El Paso has a primarily immigrant population; of Plote’s graduating class of 862, all but 13 were of Hispanic descent.
Plote said that she has heard of stories similar to Ortiz’s. In middle school, her best friend’s parents were granted citizenship, and her best friend became a citizen in fourth grade.
She also noted that for every success story, there is one of failure.
“I’ve seen people deported,” she said. “It’s sad and scary, but usually they are understanding. Splitting up families is especially hard.”
Plote made it clear that violent deportations happen with much less frequency than many believe.
“Most immigrants come here to be middle class, even lower class, and for the most part are good people,” she said.
Plote noted that as a Catholic, she believes in welcoming immigrants with charity, but as an American she understands the importance of rules.
“Francis speaks on love, but it’s difficult to incorporate that into the law,” Plote said.
The pope’s address to Congress and the United Nations is expected to promote the idea that love must be incorporated into law, both international and national.
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas reported that Bishop Farrell is hosting a live simulcast of the pope’s closing Mass in Philadelphia on Sept. 27 at Klyde Warren Park, located between St. Paul and Pearl streets in downtown Dallas.
The event will begin with a bilingual praise and worship session at 2 p.m., followed by the simulcast at 3 p.m. and a special blessing of families by Bishop Farrell at 5 p.m.
Sponsors include the Catholic Foundation and the Jethsuby Scholarship Fund, which helps make Catholic education affordable for young Hispanic students.
All are invited to this free event and encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets and to wear white or yellow in honor of Pope Francis.