Rally, strike, vigil greet Pope in Washington

 A 13-day bus trip by US nuns seeking to "bridge the divide" between rich and poor comes to an end Tuesday in Washington, where Pope Francis will kick off his US visit.

AFP| Updated: Sep 23, 2015, 00:22 AM IST

Washington: A 13-day bus trip by US nuns seeking to "bridge the divide" between rich and poor comes to an end Tuesday in Washington, where Pope Francis will kick off his US visit.

The following are briefs about the pope`s visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia:The 2,000-mile (3,000-kilometer) bus ride from the US Midwest to the nation`s capital was intended to build off Pope Francis`s recent encyclical, in which he called for an "economy of inclusion."

The trip, which began September 10, ends with a rally Tuesday afternoon on the National Mall, the monument-studded expanse extending from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

The rally marks the end of the fourth annual trip by the nuns, and participants will be asked to sign the side of the bus as a sign of their commitment to work toward transforming politics and economics to reduce inequality, as embodied in the theme of this year`s trip: "Bridge the Divides: Transform Politics."

US nuns were rebuked by the previous pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, for diverging from the Vatican`s teaching on some social issues, but that relationship with the Vatican has largely been mended over the past year.In another action picking up on Pope Francis`s calls for reducing economic inequality, workers employed by concession and cleaning contractors at the US Capitol building greeted the pope`s arrival Tuesday with a strike to protest their low pay.

"We want you to know that even though we serve the wealthy and the powerful in the Congress, we earn so little that we live in utter poverty," the workers said in an open letter to Pope Francis. They noted that some of them sleep on the streets, go to bed hungry and cannot afford health care.

In a religious procession and prayer session, the workers called on President Barack Obama and other elected leaders to follow Francis`s calls for greater economic inequality by implementing a $15-per-hour minimum wage.As popular as Pope Francis is, those representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy see that popularity as "largely obscuring the ongoing sexual violence and cover-up crisis in the church," the support group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said Tuesday.

They held a vigil on the sidewalk outside St. Matthew`s Cathedral in downtown Washington Tuesday afternoon, where Francis will meet Wednesday with US bishops, who have often come under fire for not acting on abuse allegations.

Members of the group held signs and photos of victims they said were molested as children and later killed themselves.The eighth World Meeting of Families, organized by the Vatican, began on Tuesday in Philadelphia, where some 17,000 people from 100 countries were expected to "celebrate family, sanctuary of love and life."

The event kicked off with a mass followed by a blessing of a life-sized marble reproduction of Michelangelo`s pieta.

But liberal Catholic groups like Catholics for Choice find this year`s meeting takes a "conservative line on what constitutes `family` and the political, social and economic positions in which those families find themselves."

The meeting`s host, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Caput, welcomed gay families to the meeting but also said that, in the name of preventing lobbying, representatives from groups working to make the Church more accepting of gays and lesbians would not be allowed to make presentations.

Workshops on LGBT issues planned for an area Catholic church were moved to a nearby Methodist church instead, Catholics for Choice`s Jen Girdish said.