Louisiana Bishop will be in meeting with Pope

Bishop Michael Duca of the diocese of Shreveport holds a Pope Francis-inspired T-shirt. He leaves Tuesday for Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia for sessions with Pope Francis. (Photo: Douglas Collier/The Daily Times)

If Bishop Michael Duca is selected to shake hands with Pope Francis during a meeting in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, he will deliver a two-sentence greeting in Spanish — one of two languages the Holy Father speaks fluently.

Late Monday afternoon, Duca was still pondering the message.

Pointing out that Pope Francis is fluent in Spanish and Italian, but can speak English, Duca predicted he will address U.S. Congress in English, but in a written speech.

The pope comes to the United states from Cuba where he met Sunday with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Duca left Shreveport today and will be in two meetings with the pope Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and two Sunday in Philadelphia, where the World Meeting of Families is being held.

In Washington, Duca will attend the pope’s Mid-day Prayer with some 300, including members of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, visiting and retired bishops. In the late afternoon, he will be at the Junpero Serra Canonization Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Serra established missions up and down the California coast.)

On Sunday, Duca will attend the papal meeting with bishops at St. Martin’s Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and the Papal Mass for World Meeting of Families. “The world meeting is his primary reason for being here,” said Duca.

In the Wedneday prayer service at St. Matthew Cathedral, several members of the U.S.Conference of Bishops will be chosen to personally greet the pope.

“I am on the Administrative Committee for Region 5 and I think I might meet the Holy Father and shake his hand. That is the only time I would have a chance,” said Duca.

“Still, I hope I am one of them,” Duca said about being selected, during an interview with The Times Monday morning

It will be the bishop’s second meeting with a pope. He first met Pope Benedict XVI about five years ago at a meeting at the Vatican.

During the talk with The Times, Duca held up a Pope Francis-inspired T-shirt with a big smile on his face.

The bishop already has an iPhone which he uses regularly, but plans to buy a portable battery he can attach to the back of the phone.

And, yes, he’ll be shooting photos when he has permission. In information he received, there were no restrictions on taking photos.

For the Midday Prayer service, he will ride with other bishops on a bus and register with the U.S. Secret Service at the venue.

“Everything is scripted,” said Duca.

“It is always special to meet the Holy Father in person. It seldom happens and this is his first visit to the United States in his whole life. His view has always been from the outside in and never from the inside out,” said Duca.

The bishop feels that the pope’s preaching pricks the conscience of everyone in some way.

“He does not fit a category,” said Duca.

He feels Pope Francis’ most powerful message causes listeners to look at the way we all live. It is a way through sustainability on earth which should be available for everyone to enjoy.

“I agree with him 100 percent,” said Duca, referring to the pope’s messages of openness.

And he likes Pope Francis’ more pastoral approach to the papacy.

“What he does is not motivated for the cameras. When he speaks, it is genuine. When he jumps out of the Popemobile and hugs a sick child, it is like what Jesus did,” said Duca. “He speaks little simple parables — like Jesus.”

He said, “Priests should take the smell of your sheep,'” added Duca. He explained the words mean priests and bishops alike should work close to people.

“The Holy Father centers on humanity and is about creating world sustainability,” said Duca. “That is very attractive to young people.”

“I’m excited about going. I think it will be a lot of fun,” continued the bishop.

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