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Episcopal reverend says Pope Francis’ U.S. visit inspiring folks to reflect on their faith, regardless of religion

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MILWAUKEE -- On Wednesday, September 23rd, Pope Francis' first full day in the United States, a ceremony was held on the South Lawn of the White House as the pontiff made his first direct address to the nation. On Wednesday afternoon, Pope Francis celebrated Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception -- where Father Junipero Serra was canonized.

Pope Francis makes remarks on White House Lawn

Pope Francis makes remarks on White House Lawn

The interest in Pope Francis is far-reaching -- and not just geographically. The pontiff's visit to the United States is inspiring folks to reflect on their own faith, regardless of their religion.

"In my parish on Sunday mornings, people are talking about the pope -- oddly enough," Rev. Debra Trakel with St. Christopher's Episcopal Church on River Road in Milwaukee said.

Odd because while Pope Francis is Catholic, Rev. Trakel's parish is not.

"The last time I saw this level of excitement about a particular pontiff was John XXIII who did the same kind of thing by opening up the doors of the church, letting in the light and beginning to shake up the establishment and the status quo," Rev. Trakel said.

Rev. Debra Trakel

Rev. Debra Trakel

Trakel has a unique perspective as a female Episcop[al pastor and a former Franciscan nun in the Catholic church.

"The part of Roman Catholic that was always most important to me was their focus on issues of social justices and human justice. This particular pope is shining the light back there," Rev. Trakel said.

Trakel feels that's what people are connecting with as they watch Pope Francis' events in the United States.

Pope Francis and President Barack Obama

Pope Francis and President Barack Obama

"The pope is speaking to some pretty fundamental human imperatives -- that we care for those that don`t have as much for others, so if you are homeless or hungry on our planet," Rev. Trakel said.

Trakel says she feels this is causing a ripple effect -- leading to stronger faith regardless of a person's religious denomination or tradition.

"He`s reminding me of the best of my faith and I thank God for that," Rev. Trakel said.

On Thursday, Pope Francis is set to make an address to a joint meeting of Congress. He will travel to New York and Philadelphia later in the week to wrap up his six-day visit.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Washington, D.C.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Washington, D.C.

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