Baton Rouge priest gives insight on Pope Francis' first visit to the US

Pope Francis arrives in US

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Father Joshua Johnson is a priest at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Baton Rouge. His sermon this past Sunday was about the essence of the Christian faith.

"When Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead, he still had the wounds in his side and in his hands and his feet. He was still pierced for us so that we can know this is a God that we can relate to, this is a God who gets us," said Father Johnson.

At age 27, many parishioners call Father Johnson a breath of fresh air; a priest who seems more in touch. It just so happens, it is a similar description heard about World Church Leader Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936, is the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church.

The Holy Father has more than seven million followers on Twitter and his humble persona has made him popular. The Pope of the people, of all people, many say.

Pope Francis is also controversial. His creation of a humbler papacy still has lofty ambitions. His push for change has stirred hope and has created anxiety.

"(Pope Francis) challenges me and inspires me to always be a witness and speak the truth," said Father Johnson.

Father Johnson believes Pope Francis' message in his first trip to America could be equally challenging.

"I think in our country we get very political, we align ourselves with our politics before our Jesus. I think Pope Francis coming to America and he is going to say it's not about a political party. It's not about your republican, democrat or liberal or conservative beliefs. I'm here to give you a message that Jesus Christ wants me to say to you," stated Father Johnson.

It is the World Meeting of Families gathering in Philadelphia that Father Johnson says will be foremost on the Holy Father's agenda, not politics. Pope Francis will teach love, tolerance and respect for all.

"I think Pope Francis is so beautiful in his approach to being a pope because he came in as a witness first and because people saw the way he lived his life, I think people are a lot more open to listening to him speak," said Father Johnson. "From the jump he came off as a witness. As a bishop, as an arch bishop, he was never in Rome. He was never dealing with all that stuff. He was with his people in the slums of Latin America."

The audience at a recent mass the Pontiff delivered wasn't Cardinals and Bishops, but gardeners, janitors and Vatican staff. It was in the small chapel of the Vatican guest house where he has chosen to live.

"What the pope in his Papacy has shown us is that he cares for all people. He doesn't care if you are Catholic or Christian or atheist, he wants to enter into a relationship with you like Jesus Christ did and meet you where you're at," Father Johnson said.

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