Pope Francis Set to Join Students in Conversation in a Virtual Event Hosted By Loyola

Zack Miller | The PhoenixPope Francis will virtually join an event hosted by Loyola Feb. 24.

In a virtual event hosted by Loyola, Pope Francis will join university students from across the western hemisphere in a dialogue Feb. 24. During the Zoom event, one to two Loyola students will have the opportunity to ask questions and speak to the pope directly.

The event is being hosted by Loyola’s Institute of Pastoral Studies (IPS), the Department of Theology and the Joan and Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney said in an email sent to the university community Jan. 26. 

“This historic encounter between the pope and university students from North, Central, and South America will address salient challenges of our times,” Micheal Murphy, director of the Department of Theology and one of the organizers of the event, said. “The students will share concrete educational projects that seek to justly transform environmental and economic realities and the manifold ways their educational commitments can contribute to integrate and empower existential peripheries.” 

The organizers said they are expecting thousands of people to join the event, and said any Loyola student is welcome to join and listen to the live stream. The event is scheduled to start at 12 p.m. central time, and is expected to last for about 75 minutes.

Students who are interested in being selected to participate in the event are encouraged to email, Murphy told The Phoenix. Eight Loyola students will be selected for the Central US Working Group, which will meet and discuss projects and issues. This group will come up with questions for the pope during the event.

“This is a historic thing, the pope has not addressed the university student before, and that’s what we think is so special about this, and that’s why it’s an honor to be hosting this event,” Murphy said. 

“Loyola is deeply honored that the Holy Father, the first Jesuit and Latin American pope, has chosen our University as the inaugural space for dialogue in this historic outreach to university students around the world,” Rooney said in her email. “We look forward to an energetic and inspiring global conversation and are humbled to play a small part in the journey.”

The organizers of the event said they were shocked when the pope accepted their invitation. Peter Jones, Interim Dean of the Institute of Pastoral Studies, said that Pope Francis has been very interested and enthusiastic throughout the organizing process.

“He’s been following our planning and checking our work,” Jones said. “The youth are very dear to him and this guy wants to listen and dialogue with them.”

The event will bring together students from eight regions in the Americas and will mostly feature students from other Jesuit and Catholic universities, Jones said.

“People from different parts of the continent and country are going to raise different issues based on their political and economic backgrounds,” Miguel Diaz, one of the event organizers, said.

According to the Jan. 26 announcement email, Pope Francis had the following to say about the upcoming event. 

“Dear brothers and sisters, may this Synod be a true season of the Spirit! For we need the Spirit, the ever new breath of God, who sets us free from every form of self-absorption, revives what is moribund, loosens shackles and spreads joy.”

Murphy, Jones and Diaz said they hope this event will foster increased conversation and community participation among university students going forward. 

“We’re facilitating an encounter amongst students, and the pope is popping in to hear what they’re saying, to catalyze them, and to put his stamp of approval on what they’re doing,” Murphy said. 

Correction: The original version of this article had a factual error regarding how many students would have the opportunity to speak with Pope Francis directly. The article has been modified to correct these errors.

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