© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

At Milwaukee Viewing Party, Churchgoers Applaud Pope Francis' Address to Congress

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Pope Francis after his speech in a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC.

People from a variety of faiths gathered in downtown Milwaukee to watch Pope Francis' speech to a joint meeting of Congress. About 40 assembled at the First Unitarian Society. Some were church members; others heard about the viewing event and wanted to be a part of it.

All listened intently to Pope Francis' speech. Sometimes they gave a thumbs up or briefly applauded.

At the speech's conclusion, they moved their folding chairs into a circle for a lively chat about the many points in the address.

WUWM pulled a few participants aside to ask what they made of the pope's decision about what subjects to bring to Congress.

"I think it's really just stressing the importance of climate change. I know it's not a surprise, but that it is the crisis of our time and that we got to set aside the unprecedented divisiveness that we have to accomplish that," said Matt Dannenberg of Watertown.

"I was really excited he took on the arms trade in the most stark terms. He said weapons equal innocent blood for money, and I just totally resonate with that message. And he said stop the arms trade. And I really appreciate him taking that on especially to this group," Mark Gill of Milwaukee said.

Some in the audience watched the lawmakers on the big screen noting their reactions. Julie Enslow says she thinks some were uncomfortable with the pope's repeated theme of making decisions for the common good.

"Working for the common good in everything we do is not the norm in Washington. They are working usually for the good of the people who have given them money for their campaigns, which is big corporate America, and this was a real challenge to get back to let's see what's best for everyone in this country and for the poorest of the poor," Enslow said.

A couple other subjects caught the ear of Dianne Dagelen of Wauwatosa. She was intrigued by the pope's approach.

"He didn't go to some of the issues that are divisive, such as abortion, directly, or having a man and a woman as a head of a family. Instead, he talked about the death penalty in terms of respecting life. He talked about the issues of families that we need to be concerned about the children in particular, and those that are living in poverty or who deal with violence and despair," Dagelen said.

Many at the viewing event took note of the pope's call for lawmakers to work together to set aside polarization. The summons pleased Charles Bensinger of Shorewood.

"I thought he was trying to appeal to the higher, more noble instincts in people's nature, which I think is really important. We need to see a lot more of that in our politicians," Bensinger said.

Bensinger says the pope's speech -- and approach -- affected him personally.

"I grew up Catholic, eight years of catholic school and all that. But my overriding sense of that experience was one of guilt and sin and blame. And what he's talking about here is expansiveness and responsibility and the common good. So I feel really much better about where the faith is going, thanks to his leadership," Bensinger said.

And Julie Enslow, who grew up in an Irish Catholic household, says she was moved too, especially by the pope's focus on the Golden Rule: to treat people the way you'd like to be treated.

"It is so good to have a pope who really articulates (what) the message of Jesus was really all about, and I'm just so pleased to have lived long enough to see this happen," Enslow said.

Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.
Related Content