Iowa Senator Tom Harkin calls it a “hopeful time,” as he joins his fellow 1.2-billion Catholics around the world in welcoming a new pope. Harkin, who has met the two previous pontiffs, says the “humble” Pope Francis may be “just what the Church needs now.”
“I hope his impact will be on getting more governments around the world to focus on social and economic justice,” Harkin says. “He has said some things in the past that lead me to believe that may be the focus during his papacy and I hope that’s it.”
Harkin, a Democrat, defines social and economic justice as all people, no matter how poor, need to have a roof over their heads, clothes to wear and food to eat, health care, education, and meaningful employment.
“All governments, not just ours but worldwide, governments need to pay more attention and need to invest more in the poor and the underprivileged to make sure that they have a shot at getting a good education and that we don’t have such disparities between the rich and the poor.”
Pope Francis marks several firsts, as he’s the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, he’s the first pope from the Americas, and he’s the first Jesuit. Harkin says he’s “always had a lot of respect for the Jesuits.”
“All the Jesuits I’ve known and been associated with most of my life have been butting heads with the Vatican,” Harkin says, laughing. “They were the ones that were standing up for the poor in Latin America and places like that and getting killed and getting martyred and the Vatican wasn’t really doing very much to protect them.”
Harkin graduated from a Catholic high school in Des Moines and got his law degree from Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.