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Asking the clergy: What would you say to Pope Francis if you could meet him on his U.S. visit?

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Aug. 26, 2015. Credit: AP

Pope Francis, the religious leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, will follow in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI by visiting New York City. He will be in town Sept. 24 and 25. This week's clergy discuss what they would say if they had a chance to speak with the Holy Father.

Arthur Dobrin, leader emeritus, Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, Garden City:

Thank you for bringing attention to the spiritual relationship between humanity and the earth upon which we all live. Without a healthy planet, we all suffer. For far too long we have taken from our Mother as greedy children, having forgotten the simple truth that we must also be her stewards. Call on everyone to do his or her part in ensuring the earth continues to nourish everyone. Thank you for reminding those who are the captains of our economy that their first goal is to provide for the welfare of the public. Capitalism without the brakes of morality is a greedy monster. Thank you for stating again what religions have always held: Those who have much owe much to those who have little. Wealth by itself is not evil, but wealth that isn't properly shared brings about great evils. Thank you for putting compassion at the center of your concerns. Without a concern for humanity there can be no morality, and without morality we are all lost. Thank you for bringing justice to the forefront of your papal message. The Bible calls for justice, all religions call for justice, ethics put justice at the heart of things.

Sister Helen Kearney, president, Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood:

My first words to Pope Francis would be those of gratitude for his joy and engagement with our world. I admire his openness and honesty in naming the difficult issues of our time and the challenge to advocate for the poor and excluded. Pope Francis reminds us that this includes all of creation. You cannot separate humanity from the rest; there is a relationship of mutual impact, and also the rebound effect when the environment is abused. I would ask the Pope to continue to call us to seek sustainable development to preserve our common home. This includes examining our patterns of consumption and waste that deplete our environment. As he reminds us in "Laudato Si'," the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable. I admire the Pope's forthrightness in saying that special and economic interests trump the common good, creating enormous inequalities. Pope Francis points out that there is tremendous power and possibility for committed men and women to be inventive and create alternatives that foster justice, collaboration and peace. I would ask Pope Francis to create opportunities for open and honest conversations around complex issues, such as the role of women in the Church, divorce, homosexuality, the death penalty, immigration and human trafficking.

The Rev. Thomas A. Cardone, chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale:

Holy Father, it is with great joy that we welcome you to our country, one that was founded on biblical principles of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. While you are with us, I ask that you focus on three themes that are important for us today. The first is witness; we need to learn about the importance of biblical witness. In an age that no longer knows nor understands the Catholic theological tradition (or other faith traditions) about family, virtue and life issues, teach us to bear witness to them by the quality of our lives. Second, having worked with teenagers and young people at Kellenberg Memorial, Chaminade and Saint Martin De Porres Marianist School all my life, I am convinced that our culture needs to form young people as future leaders and community servants. Teach us and them to set aside narcissism, self-preoccupation and self-indulgence and become aware of the fact that we are all responsible for the well-being of one another. May they learn that their lives are not about them but about God working through them, with them and in them. And finally teach us more fully about mercy so we can celebrate this jubilee year with fervor rather than fear. Our culture has fostered a lifestyle where we slide into self-absorption and can easily neglect the poor, the homeless, those suffering with mental and physical illness and those paralyzed with anxiety, depression and fear. As St. Francis called us to be instruments of peace; Pope Francis, call us to be instruments of mercy.

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