Photo: courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
Photo: courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Pope Francis’ nine-day trip to the United States and Cuba began this weekend, and New York City is on the edge of its seat. The 78-year-old Argentine is one of the more popular Popes in recent history, thanks to his commitment to the poor, the working class, and the environment. But this progressive stance has made him decidedly unpopular amongst some.

Conservatives in Washington D.C. are nervous that Pope Francis might stir up some commotion with the American media by veering off-script and speaking candidly to the public, something that he has a reputation for doing. The Pope’s agenda for his visit to the New York will include talks about immigration reform, a visit to a prison, and reaching out to the poor.

On the other hand, liberal officials are eager to ask the Pope about the church’s current stance on gay marriage, and also the situation of child abuse by Catholic clerics. These are both tense issues for the church and its followers right now.

“Francis is not a liberal. He’s a very complicated character,” explained Paul Vallely, author of a biography about the Pope, to BBC. “He’s got some liberal tendencies, but he’s got some conservative tendencies too. He wants to shift the focus from sex to poverty.”

The Pope is set to make 26 speeches during his trip to the United States and Cuba, including leading a prayer at New York’s 9/11 memorial. Because his native language is Spanish, his visit to Cuba, where he will meet with Fidel Castro, is expected to be especially interesting. And because of his penchant for off-the-cuff remarks against capitalist corruption and income inequality, his visit to New York City’s financial district is definitely expected to ruffle some feathers.

He is expected to arrive in NYC on Thursday, September 24, and his itinerary includes a visit to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the United Nations, ground zero, an inner-city school in East Harlem, and, finally, to Madison Square Garden, where he will deliver mass for 19,000 New Yorkers.

-by Rachel Veroff