A delegation of West/Southwest IAF representatives met with Pope Francis on Thursday, September 14, at his Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. Common Ground leader Tazamisha Alexander was one of the members of this delegation. It was a moving encounter with substantive conversation, filled with insight and humor.
The meeting was covered in this article from Angelus News.
The following is from West/Southwest IAF's report back from September 15 on this meeting:
The Pope first met with us last October, and yesterday, without missing a beat, he reiterated his understanding of our organizing as the conversation began.
"Your work is atomic,” he said. “You go atom by atom, little by little, moving forward. Like water moves forward, which becomes a river, and soon pervades everything it touches.”
Our leaders shared our recent work around immigration, housing, and fighting inequitable tax breaks for multi-national corporations that are some of the world’s major polluters, and Pope Francis interacted with us throughout.
He mentioned that on October 4, he will be issuing a companion to his encyclical Laudato Si, which will serve as an “examination of conscience” of our stewardship for the environment since the release of the original encyclical. He applauded efforts to reign in destructive corporate behavior and to promote efforts like Community Lighthouse to protect our communities from the effects of climate change.
Our meeting came at a time when the Pope has just returned from Mongolia, is preparing for October’s month-long gathering of the Global Synod on Synodality, and will hold a Consistory to install a new group of Cardinals.
Yet he seemed in no rush to end the hour-long afternoon conversation. As before, we found him to be an intent listener, fond of spontaneous back and forth engagement in Spanish. Throughout, the Pope shared his thoughts on a number of themes—the Global Synod, short meaningful homilies, work with seminaries, formation of leaders and clergy (“clergy should be shepherds not functionaries”), efforts at dialogue between the church in North and Latin America, even book recommendations to read—from him.
A poignant moment came when Mary Jackson from Los Angles presented our written report to him, dedicated to Bishop Dave O’Connell, whom we lost tragically in February.
The Pope offered his support for next year’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of our region, encouraged us to keep the conversation going with Vatican officials around our work, and even agreed to review selected training materials for parish organizing and Recognizing the Stranger.
As we ended, he led us in praying the Lord’s Prayer together while holding hands, and he reminded us about the real essence of our work.
“What you’re doing is creating a culture. You’re not looking to resolve things from one day to the next. Your resolve is to the idea of creating a culture. That’s what I would emphasize. You’re creating a culture of solidarity.”
“Me hace bien a mí escucharlos a ustedes,” he said. “It does me good to listen to you.”