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Archdiocese brings papal visit to Cincinnati’s central gathering place

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A cardboard cutout of Pope Francis is seen on Fountain Square Sept. 18. On Sept. 24, the Holy Father's speech to congress will air live on the Fountain Square big screen. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)
A cardboard cutout of Pope Francis is seen on Fountain Square Sept. 18. On Sept. 24, the Holy Father’s speech to congress will air live on the Fountain Square big screen. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

By John Stegeman
Catholic News Service

CINCINNATI (CNS) — When Pope Francis becomes the first pope to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress Sept. 24, many will be watching on television or online.

In downtown Cincinnati, residents, workers and tourists will be able to watch on a 30.5-by-42.5-foot giant television at the city’s central gathering space, Fountain Square.

Though the pontiff won’t be coming to Cincinnati, it hasn’t stopped the 19-county archdiocese in southwestern Ohio from welcoming him.

In July, the archdiocese launched “Food for All: Be Multiplied,” a campaign to collect 1 million donated food items to honor the pope’s desire to end world hunger and a letter-writing campaign to ask Congress to fund child nutrition programs all in honor of Pope Francis’ visit.

The latest effort brings the papal visit directly into the public square. Fountain Square has been the unofficial center of Cincinnati since 1871 and is the site of a historic fountain. Local concerts dominate the square on summer evenings and an ice skating rink and Christmas tree are there in winter. It is also a popular spot for tourists and workers to eat lunch. Many movements, religious and civil, hold demonstrations on the square.

“This unique instance of religion in the public square comes at a time when religious liberty is under attack in the United States and around the world,” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati. “In order to highlight that, we decided to literally put the Holy Father ‘in the public square’ in Cincinnati by arranging for the speech to be broadcast on a large screen in the heart of the city. Many of our offices will be on Fountain Square that morning as well to seize the evangelistic moment.

“Although Pope Francis will be the fourth pontiff to visit the United States during his reign, he will be the first to address a joint session of Congress,” the archbishop noted. “He was invited by Speaker of the House John Boehner, a parishioner of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”

Pope Francis accepted an invitation by Boehner, R-Ohio, to address Congress back in February. Boehner, a Catholic and native of the archdiocese, attends Mass with his wife, Debbie, at St. Maximillian Kolbe in Liberty Township.

“Pope Francis’ visit to the Capitol is a historic moment for the country,” Boehner told Catholic News Service in a statement. “I’m thrilled that Ohioans from all walks of life and those who share in the Catholic faith will be coming together on Fountain Square to listen to his message.”

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati Social Action Office called the event, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) before the scheduled 10 a.m. start time of the speech, “an informal, rain-or-shine, opportunity to grab a cup of coffee and celebrate this exciting moment in our history.”

Further north in the archdiocese, the University of Dayton is also hosting a public watch party. The address will be shown live at the Hangar in Kennedy Union. That gathering begins at 9:15 a.m. and is sponsored by Campus Ministry’s Center for Social Concern.

In addition to the speech being shown live, Archbishop Schnurr released a “Prayer for the Papal Visit” and urged the faithful to say the prayer that morning before the pope’s speech.

It says in part: “God of all peoples … We praise you for the gift of Pope Francis, our Holy Father, who has been given the historic opportunity to proclaim your love and truth to the heart of our democracy.

“We ask that his witness stir in our elected leaders and citizens across our country a renewal of unity in serving the common good of the entire human family. Let this day bring new possibilities. … May we always proclaim our faith in the public square and be a sign of your love to all the world.”

Posted Sept. 18, 2015


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