Associate Professor Thompson on Pope Francis’ US Visit
Margaret Susan Thompson, associate professor of history and political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and senior research associate at the school’s Campbell Public Affairs Institute, shares her thoughts on what might be expected during Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States.
“Everybody will find something that resonates in what he says, but not everything he says will resonate with everyone. More conservative Catholics will appreciate anything he says about the traditional family; more progressive ones might appreciate what he has to say about climate change or standing in solidarity with the poor. There’s nothing wrong with this. Part of his job is to challenge people to think about a range of things more rigorously and maybe in different ways.
“It’s also exciting that he is Latin American and will be speaking in Spanish at many events. With a growing Hispanic population in the United States, this is significant. Another crucial element during his visit is the canonization of Father Junipero Serra, an early Franciscan friar, who is seen by some as having less than complete respect for the cultures of the Native Americans he was trying to convert.
“For most people, much of this is totally irrelevant; they are just excited to be part of a papal event. It’s sort of wonderful in a lot of ways. They’ll worry about the things that are more substantive down the road.
“It’s just as people can get excited about meeting a president of the United States—even if it’s a president they wouldn’t support. Overlay that with Pope Francis’ charisma and the fact that he represents a faith tradition that’s important to a lot of people, and you can understand the phenomenon.”
Thompson, who also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Religion in the College of Arts and Sciences, focuses her current research on the Americanization of Catholic women’s religious life and also the impact of religion upon American politics and governance. Thompson, who has written extensively on the history of American Catholic women, lay and religious, is working on a book titled “The Yoke of Grace: American Nuns and Social Change, 1808-1917.”
Professor Thompson is available to speak with the media and can be reached at Msthomps@maxwell.syr.edu.
Read the full version of a Q&A with Professor Thompson here.