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Communications and Media

Pope Francis’ Visit to the U.S.

WHO: American University professors  

WHAT: Discussion and analysis 

WHEN: Sept. 8 - ongoing 

WHERE: Via Skype, telephone, email, in-studio, or at American University

Contact: Rebecca Basu, American University Communications, 202-885-5950 or via e-mail at 

BACKGROUND: The first Latin American pope will be making his first-ever trip to the United States on Sept. 22. During his visit to the U.S., Pope Francis will preside over the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, speak before the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., and address the United Nations in New York. AU professors can discuss logistics, planning and preparation in advance of Pope Francis' visit, his popularity among segments of U.S. society, and the topics Pope Francis is expected to address. 

Evan Berry, associate professor of Philosophy and Religion, researches the intersections among religion, globalization, and climate change and is the author of "Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism," (University of California Press.) Berry is available to discuss how the Pope's environmental and climate change message has been taken up by religious, interfaith and other groups in the United States. He can also discuss Pope Francis' popularity among Americans.

Berry says: "It is extremely unlikely that Pope Francis' visit or his message will shift conservative positions on climate change, but his moral authority and popularity with Latinos are likely to constrict opportunities for opposition to climate action. Speaking out against carbon regulations and expressing skepticism about the scientific veracity of climate change may appeal to the Republican base, but party leaders—especially Presidential candidates—risk finding themselves out of step with the moral mood of the moment." 

Anita McBride, Center for Congressional & Presidential Studies, has served in three presidential administrations. She was responsible for planning Pope Benedict's visit to the White House in 2008. McBride is available to discuss the complexity of White House planning and preparation of the Pope's visit, which is treated as a State arrival;history of Papal visits to the U.S.; and the relationship between the White House and the Vatican, both current and past.

William LeoGrande, professor of Government, is an expert on U.S.-Cuba policy. He is a co-author of "Back Channel to Cuba;The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana," which includes a chapter on the role Pope Francis played in bringing the U.S. and Cuba back to normalized diplomatic relations. He can discuss secret meetings Pope Francis held in the Vatican between U.S. and Cuban government officials and the Pope's trip to Cuba before visiting the United States.

Bill Gentile, Journalist in Residence at the School of Communication, can talk about the danger environmentalists face in Latin America as they work to preserve the rain forest. Environmental activists in Latin America are routinely threatened, attacked and sometimes abducted, tortured, killed. According to Gentile, who spent the summer creating a film on religion and the environment in the Amazon for AU's Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, the Pope's visit to Ecuador changed the minds of many opponents of environmentalism. The pontiff's visit imparted a degree of protection now that environmental activists have the blessing of the Roman Catholic Church. Gentile can also discuss how the Pope's "cover" of persons active in preserving the rain forest extends to political leaders who wish to move forward programs to protect the environment and limit climate change.