Sioux City, Iowa — The four Catholic bishops in Iowa — including the bishop for our area — are preparing to travel east to see the pope next week. Pope Francis will make his first trip to America since becoming the leader of the Catholic Church. Bishop R. Walker Nickless of the Sioux City
Catholic Diocese will have an audience with the pope during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
Nickless has never met Pope Francis before. Pope Francis has drawn criticism from conservatives who’ve objected to his comments about climate change and his warnings about “unfettered” capitalism. Bishop Walker says the basic doctrines and teachings of the church are not going to change.
The pope has said Catholics should be compassionate toward gays and lesbians, but Bishop Nickless says the church still considers sexual activity between two people of the same gender a sin.
This summer Pope Francis said Catholics who’ve had an abortion and seek forgiveness during the upcoming “Holy Year of Mercy” should be allowed to take communion. That sacrament is now denied to women who’ve had an abortion. Bishop Nickless says abortion is still a “grave sin.”
Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. on Tuesday afternoon. Next Wednesday, the pope will meet in Washington, D.C. with U.S. Catholic bishops. On Thursday of next week Pope Francis will deliver a speech to a joint session of the U.S. House and Senate. He’ll visit New York the following day and conduct an evening mass in Madison Square Garden. The pope will spend that weekend in Philadelphia for events surrounding the World Meeting of Families.