Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, arrives in the United States Tuesday for a five day tour in three cities.
His first stop on the multi-city tour will be the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., where he will be met by President Barack Obama when he lands at Joint Base Andrews, just outside D.C.
From there he’ll participate in a welcoming ceremony at the White House, canonize Junípero Serra at the National Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and address a joint session of Congress.
The pontiff will then head off to New York and Philadelphia, where he’ll speak at the Sept. 11 memorial and conduct mass at the World Meeting of the Families, respectively.
Studio 7’s Joseph Njanji sought out members of the Catholic community in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to find out their views on issues affecting the church in the country and their thoughts on how these could be dealt with under Pope Francis’ leadership.
Thirty-year old John Mufundisi of Bulawayo is ecstatic about Pope Francis, his message and reforms of the traditional Catholic Church as we know it.
Mufundisi, who was born into a devout Catholic family but deserted since he did not agreed with its tough doctrine, for instance in the case of celibacy when stories doing the round in the communities were that priests were either abusing young boys or having affairs with married women, says he may decide to come back to the church as the prodigal son if the reforms are effected.
Pope Francis recently announced one of the most significant reforms of his papacy - how Catholics can nullify a marriage. The changes are radical. He was also quoted saying: "Who am I to judge?" when asked about a Vatican monsignor who allegedly had a gay lover in his past.
His message has been all-embracing, asking the Catholic Church and the world to be tolerant of those with differing views.
While traditional Catholics are at odds with some of the Pope’s intended reforms, Mufundisi says that’s the way to go.
Mufundisi, who used to attend mass at St Bernard’s Parish in Pumula, says he previously had been disillusioned by the church’s failure to evolve, especially holding on to what he says are unrealistic celibacy laws resulting in sex scandals engulfing the church.
The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe has had its fair share of sex scandals with the most prominent being that which involved the former Archbishop of Bulawayo Dr. Pius Alick Mvundla Ncube back in 2007.
While Ncube’s case may have received widespread media coverage because of his vocal opposition to President Robert Mugabe’s rule, there have been quite a number of reported cases of sexual misconduct involving Catholic priests.
ON HEAVEN AND EARTH
The celibacy of Roman Catholic priests is an issue that Pope Francis wrote about back when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in his book titled ‘On Heaven and Earth’.
But while he commented that celibacy "is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change", he added that he was "for the moment, in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons.”
Pope Francis has since he became Pontiff introduced a lot of changes in the Catholic Church that have won him both admiration, and much criticism.
One issue that Nobuhle Nleya believes the pontiff should encourage is embracing new ways of worship that will stop the youth from quitting the Catholic Church to join prophet-led Pentecostal churches that have mushroomed all over the country.
Before visiting the United States, Pope Francis paid a visit to Cuba.
Veteran journalist Ray Matikinye says the Roman Catholic Church has always played a leading role in conflict resolution and therefore the leader of the Catholic Church has to be credited for the part he played in the thawing of relations between the two Cold War enemies.
Zimbabwe’s Catholic Church has sent representatives to the United States to meet with the Pope and other Catholics from all over the world during the World Meeting of Families. In the meantime, all ears are on the ground as the Catholic Church waits for the Papal message from the U.S.
Speaking to VOA Studio 7 Father William Guri, a catholic priest based here in the U.S. state of Maryland, said the visit by Pope Francis is a very special. Father Guri said for Zimbabweans living in the U.S., this visit is equally historical, as they will be able to be present as the Pontiff visits Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.