NEW YORK — When Pope Francis sets foot on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington on Sept. 22, it won’t just be his first time in the United States as pontiff. It will be his first time in the country.
The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, never followed the footsteps of fellow Roman Catholic leaders of his rank, who sought to raise their profiles, along with money for missions back home, by networking within the U.S. church.
This gap in his résumé can be explained in part by Francis’ personality. He was a homebody who loathed being away. He also famously opposed ladder-climbing, condemning what he called “airport bishops” who spend more time traveling for prestige or pleasure than serving their flock.
Still, Francis’ lack of firsthand experience of the U.S. stands out for many, especially those struggling to absorb his unsparing critique of the excesses of global capitalism and wondering whether this first Latin American pope harbors resentment over the history of U.S. policies in his native region.
Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, an Argentine and one of Francis’ key advisers, insisted Francis is not anti-capitalist and said the pope admires America for the principles of the Founding Fathers.