Pope Francis’s attempt to inject moral urgency into dealing with poverty, immigration and climate change is about to run into entrenched political divisions in the U.S.
The pontiff’s agenda neatly dovetails with that of President Barack Obama, and some of his advisers are looking to Francis’s arrival in the U.S. on Tuesday as a way to lift the prospects of getting the unfinished work of his presidency done.
While Francis has the potential to shape still-evolving public attitudes on climate change at a critical moment, immigration and income inequality are another matter. The political lines are firmly drawn on immigration and Washington’s budget gridlock leaves no room for major new anti-poverty programs.
Francis’s visit will be rich with symbolism advancing the themes of his papacy. He will arrive on a flight from Cuba, underscoring the first Latin American pope’s support for Obama’s opening to the island nation, which the Vatican helped nurture. The pope’s first public mass in the U.S. will be given in Spanish, highlighting his connection with the country’s Hispanic immigrants.