EL PASO — In a region where the majority of the population is Catholic, news of Pope Francis’ visit to Cd. Juarez on Wednesday has brought a lot of excitement since it was announced back in December. But among non-Catholics it is still just Wednesday.
Jehovah Witnesses Claudia A. Bernal and her mother, also named Claudia, said they don’t have plans to follow any of the pope-related events since they don’t share the same beliefs, but they also don’t feel any opposition to the celebration.
“We are respectful about the pope’s visit,” said the elder Claudia Bernal. Both mother and daughter are members of the congregation of Salon del Reino de los Testigos de Jehovah in Cd. Juarez.
Jehovah Witnesses are mainly known for their door-to-door preaching every Sunday morning. “We do what our creator did when he walked on earth,” the elder Bernal said.
She also said that they don’t involve themselves with politics, referring to the Pope’s plan to draw attention to the plight of migrants and victims of violence.
The Diocese of El Paso is inviting all people, no matter their religion, to join in a celebration that will be held at the Sun Bowl, where they plan to simulcast the Mass in Juarez led by the pope.
Pentecostal minister Ruben Tabares from Asociacion Nacional de Comunidades LatinoAmericanas (ANCLA), sees the day as a something that is going to bring Catholics together, but isn’t necessarily something for other religions.
“Many people have strayed from church and if this helps them restore their faith back to God, good for them,” Tabares said.
Tabarez, who has been a pastor for 32 years, believes that the pope’s visit will have more of a long-term impact on the economy than on church attendance, since people may identify with a religion but rarely attend services.
Juarez has long struggled with violence and poverty, the key topics of the pope’s visit. Tabares wonders why the pontiff didn’t come sooner.
“Why is Pope visiting now and not when Cd. Juarez was at its highest with crime and violence?”
But, Tabares is hopeful that message of the day motivates people to be on their best behavior regardless of their beliefs.
While non-Catholics may not share the excitement of the day, many, like Daniel Cheljfec, executive director of the Jewish Federation of El Paso, still appreciate the message of peace.
“We should look beyond religion,” Cheljfec said in an interview with Univision last week. “When leaders from any religion bring moral and ethical values and help to bring peace to the world, the fact that this person is Catholic is irrelevant.”