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Before The Pope Arrives In The U.S., Here Are 3 Stories You Should Read

Bobble head figures of Pope Francis are displayed at the Catholic Information Center in Washington on Monday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Bobble head figures of Pope Francis are displayed at the Catholic Information Center in Washington on Monday.

Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, will arrive in the United States from Cuba this afternoon.

His three-city visit will be his first to the United States and will be punctuated by speeches to Congress and the United Nations. While we wait for his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base just outside of Washington, D.C., here are three stories about his visit that are curious and compelling:

-- Francis Is No Progressive (The Atlantic): That's what Emma Green at The Atlantic writes. Essentially, she argues, Francis does not fit our American definition of what a liberal, or for that matter a conservative, should be. She writes:

"... the American political spectrum is truly idiosyncratic. This is a country where a Democratic congressman can loudly oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, but can't risk really opposing abortion; a Republican might care a lot about the poor, but woe unto her campaign coffers if she suggests raising taxes on the rich. 'Francis, like all the other popes, like the Catholic Church, simply doesn't land comfortably on either side of the political divide in the U.S.,' said Vincent Miller, a professor of theology at the University of Dayton. 'But it's not simply that on questions of sexuality and human life he agrees with Republicans and on questions of economics he agrees with Democrats. The whole system is so skewed.'"

Oh, yeah, Green also argues that the pontiff, as the leader of a global movement, also doesn't care about the American electorate. So expect him to take some shots at the U.S. and its political class.

-- Pope Draws Reluctant Cuban Exiles Back To The Island (New York Times): This is perhaps one of the more human stories we've read about the pope's visit. It talks about a group of Cuban Americans, who were exiled after Castro came to power, returning to the island for the first time. Because of politics, they had resisted taking a trip back to their homeland for decades, but a papal visit, the Times reports, offered a "final, irresistible lure."

In one scene, one of the men returns to his childhood home, which was, of course, confiscated by the government as they fled:

"Earlier that afternoon, his wife and brother-in-law, Carlos Deschapelles, ventured back in time to their grandmother's old house in Vedado. The owner allowed them inside, a moment that was at once rewarding, draining and discombobulating. Emotions ricocheted.

"'It was like a relic,' said Mrs. Cuervo. The one-story house with wooden cathedral ceilings now had a second floor tucked inside. Two families lived there. But a few surprise touches remained, tweaking reminiscences — the green stained-glass window near where the girls sewed with their grandmother. The black-and-white flooring, the entree to the house's traditional family feasts. And the brass handle on the front door, their portal back in time.

"'I felt very relieved to be able to go into the house," she said. "Very relieved it existed.'"

-- In The U.S., The Popemobile Will Be A Jeep (Washington Post):Unlike his predecessor, Francis has always wanted his popemobile to be open. That means that in Ecuador, for example, where he used a similar Jeep to move through crowds, the car was open on both sides.

The Post reports:

"In a 2014 interview, the pontiff said using a bulletproof Popemobile to travel is like being confined to a 'sardine can,' one that cuts him off from other people, as Vatican Radio wrote.

"'It's true that anything could happen,' the 78-year-old Francis added, 'but let's face it, at my age, I don't have much to lose.'"

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.