ROME — By any reasonable standard, the keenly awaited Sept. 22-27 visit of Pope Francis to the United States, his first outing to the country in his entire life, has to be judged a massive short-term triumph.
The pope wowed crowds everywhere he went, whether it was leading the “Mass on the Grass” outside the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, making a swing through Central Park before 80,000 pumped-up New Yorkers on his way toplay Madison Square Garden, or drawing hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic Mass-goers to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The “People’s Pope” received overwhelmingly positive media coverage, and in a badly polarized America already in the throes of a rancorous 2016 presidential election season, he managed to avoid stirring significant political controversy despite delivering several speeches and gestures rich with political content.
While it’s just a guess at this stage, after-the-fact polls probably will show that most Americans, already charmed by Francis at a distance, will feel even more fondness having seen him close-up.
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