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#FisherExperts: Religious Studies Expert Shares Expectations for Pope Francis’ Visit to the United States

September 22, 2015

This week, Pope Francis will visit Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. As the fourth pope to visit the United States, Pope Francis’ trip includes a meeting with President Barack Obama, visits and Masses at churches in each city, and addresses and visits at state landmarks. Fr. William Graf, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at St. John Fisher College, says he expects Pope Francis will listen as much as he addresses those he meets with during his trip.

William Graf

This week, Pope Francis will visit Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. As the fourth pope to visit the United States, Pope Francis’ trip includes a meeting with President Barack Obama, visits and Masses at churches in each city, and addresses and visits at state landmarks. Fr. William Graf, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at St. John Fisher College, says he expects Pope Francis will listen as much as he addresses those he meets with during his trip.

“Pope Francis often speaks of the shepherd knowing ‘the smell of his sheep.’ He shepherds people by listening to their needs and then encouraging them to fulfill them. He has listened and will continue to listen as he visits our shores. As a fearless, but not reckless, leader, he will gently remind his listeners (in Congress, at United Nations, clergy and lay, or anyone else in the various audiences) that we need to support each other unselfishly to meet those needs especially those of the poor and voiceless. I believe Pope Francis comes with a message of joy and a message of hope. He will not come to judge, but to challenge us to be better.”

Graf holds advanced degrees in pastoral counseling, theology, and education and his special areas of focus include social ethics and the theology of marriage and sexuality. His latest research interests have centered on the use of power in leadership positions in schools.

If you’re a member of the press interested in interviewing Fr. Graf regarding the Papal visit, contact Melissa Greco Lopes, assistant director of Marketing and Communications, at mgrecolopes@sjfc.edu or (585) 385-8190.