So the Pope is coming to the United States and you aren't Catholic, should you care?
I would argue that yes, you should care. If for no other reason than this is an incredible opportunity for your family to study, learn, and discuss together.
Here are a few ideas to focus your conversation.
Media is Advertising
Little media in our modern world is objective. Paying attention to media portrayal of Pope Francis in the US in the coming weeks is going to be an excellent lesson in this. Even in just the coverage of his virtual town hall meeting broadcast earlier this month, it was obvious that people were selectively editing out parts of his comments they didn't approve of or agree with. The coverage of the undercover Planned Parenthood videos is another good example. Despite the full unedited videos being available for anyone to watch at the same time as the condensed versions, most supporters of Planned Parenthood admit they've never watched either version. Multiple news media had to print retractions when they took Cecile Richards words at face value when she accused the videos of being heavily edited and insisted on the full versions... because the full versions were already out and had been all along. The news media didn't check their facts. How do you know what someone means, what they believe, or what they stand for if you don't actually listen to what they have to say?
Reports (blogs, online, print, etc) increasingly seem to be citing other reporters rather than primary sources and relying on other reporters to fact check....if they fact check at all. Sure, they can mis-report a fact and then print a retraction but remember that whole tube of toothpaste thing. Once you squeeze it out, you can't put it back in even if you know you were wrong.
This is a big problem in our society regardless of your political, social, economic, or religious beliefs and the Pope's visit is going to be a great way to talk about it. We are coming into an election year and most people will decide who to vote for based on media portrayal of the candidates. But how do we know that the candidate we are being *sold* by the media (for good OR for bad) is actually the candidate we are voting for? Media coverage is the advertising and we are the consumers.
The sooner we acknowledge this truth, the sooner we can work to fix the problem.
Awareness of Current Events
Growing up 20 years (or so) ago, we didn't have instant access to all the news. If we watched the broadcast news we had a 30 minute condensed version of the days top headlines and if we read a newspaper we got a slightly expanded version the following day. Now we have such constant headline input into our daily lives, I think it is easy to not pay much attention to any of it.
The Pope's visit could be considered fluffy news and not relevant....because we hear about this particular Pope fairly frequently, what is different if he is here or there?
At some point we have to decide for ourselves, and for our children, which events are important to share because what we see in our new feed. Sharing all of them isn't helping us live a more connected life, in fact I believe excess input of current events and information from a young age is contributing to a more divided culture. (That's just one of my many opinions on such things, I have no data to back it up...just more of a gut feeling.) That being said, this should be an important event because the Pope is an important person.
Respect & Unity Aren't Buzz Words
We are not President Obama's biggest fans here. I have no problem admitting that I disagree with a great deal of the decisions he has made and many of his policies and beliefs. That being said, we are fans of the Office of the President. People are free to disagree with me on this, but he deserves a certain amount of respect that is due to any president. The same goes to those foreign leaders that we don't necessarily agree with. We can't just walk around being rude to people we don't like or don't agree with. There is more than enough of that going on in our world. Political and religious leaders often meet with those they disagree with and so should we.
Regardless of if you view him as a religious shepherd, a foreign dignitary, or perpetuator of out of touch teachings, right now is the time to talk about that. He's an important and influential leader of an important and influential faith. You don't have to agree with him, to recognize that's true.
I don't believe that because one issue is particularly important to me that it should be the most important issue for everyone else. That being said, for those issues that important to me I will work with anyone who also shares my belief in those issues, regardless of where it takes me politically or socially. I will stand proudly beside gay pro-life groups and I think most Republicans have seriously misguided ideas about social justice, particularly for migrant populations. (So basically when it comes time to vote, I'm pretty much screwed.)
Pope Francis has been vocal on the topic of working together for the good of all human beings and treating everyone with respect. Perhaps this is a message that all Christians, indeed all humans, can unite behind, even if we disagree on how to go about doing it. The truth is, when we come from a place of genuinely and honestly wanting good for other people we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt a little more than when we come from a place of simply trying to prove we are right.
Moral truth is not relative (there is absolute good and absolute evil), but we all have the option to accept or reject truth. The ability to accept and reject truth were given to us by none other than God Himself and we need to remember that in our relationships with other people.
Learn Your Faith (or At Least Some Geography)
Regardless of if you share Catholic beliefs on any aspects of the Christian faith, social teaching, or whatever else this visit is a chance for your family to talk about it. Read scripture, study the tenets of your own beliefs, and learn about your faith and how it relates (or doesn't) to the Catholic faith. Knowing what a person believes is only one piece of an authentic faith experience. Understanding why you believe it is, in reality, more important. Children (and adults) who don't know why they believe a particular tenant of their faith have a hard time holding to their faith when it is challenged.
So when current events gives you an excuse to talk more about it... Why not?
Even if you ascribe to no particular faith, the Pope is still a social and political figure because of the status of the Vatican, a sovereign nation contained inside a single city. He has a very unique role in a global society. Yet, due to the pressure of removing any and all references to religion in the public forum it is possible that many American children have no idea the Vatican even exists! Take this chance to make sure your kids aren't in that group.