Warnock headed to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is scheduled to visit Pope Francis on Saturday at the Vatican.

Warnock told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is excited about meeting the pope to talk about their shared interests, such as providing services to the poor and addressing climate change.

The senator, who continues to pull double duty as pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, said he was honored to meet with a religious leader he had long admired as a barrier breaker. Francis is the first Jesuit to be chosen as pontiff and the first from the Americas.

“He comes out of a kind of theological bent that tends to center the poor,” Warnock said. “And we see this in his ministry: the humble ways in which he prostrates himself before the poor, even prisoners, washing their feet. This is the love ethic of Jesus, and I have been inspired by him.”

Warnock will be accompanied at the Vatican by Joe Donnelly, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and a former congressman from Indiana.

The senator’s itinerary in Rome will also include a briefing and tour of the NATO Defense College, a roundtable discussion with officials from the United Nations and U.S. embassies to discuss the role of faith-based organizations in humanitarian aid in places such as the Gaza Strip, and a meeting with Cindy McCain, executive director of the World Food Programme and widow of the late Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain.

The trip is an official one coordinated through his Senate office. Warnock’s office said he will use the time to gather information that will aid his work on behalf of Georgia in the Senate.

But Warnock made it clear that the time with Pope Francis is among the highlights for him.

“I live every day in this intersection of faith and public life, faith and public policy,” the Atlanta Democrat said. “He does it in a very different context. So, as I consider the work that I’m doing in Georgia around centering the needs of poor people, addressing the issue of global poverty and starvation, his is such an important voice.”