PHILADELPHIA- During a tour of Independence Hall and other Philadelphia historic sites, Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, expressed a keen interest in the military strategy behind the American Revolution, particularly battles in which the British army was humiliatingly defeated, according to sources closely involved in the Pontiff's visit.
"I expected that, being a church leader from outside the United States, His Holiness would be most interested in the effect the American Revolution had on global political thought and the relationship between church and state," explained Wayne M. Anthony, a National Park Service guide who led the pope and his entourage through Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. "Instead, he seemed fascinated with the strategy George Washington used to fend off the British and end colonial rule in this part of the Western Hemisphere."
According to reporters who accompanied the pope on his tour, Francis was particularly interested in how the Continental Army fended off a larger, better-equipped foe that was able to transport its forces thousands of miles across an ocean to an area where much of the native population still supported British rule. "Would you say that Washington's crossing of the Delaware and victory at Trenton kept the British out of our beloved Malvinas- er, I mean, Philadelphia's, what do you say, suburbs?" the pope asked of Dr. Nate Green, a Temple University historian who assisted in the tour and associated briefings.
Although some feared the pope's statements on issues such as the environment, immigration, and capitalism would alienate him from the American public, Francis seemed impressed with his visit, to the point of being excited to make a return journey. He was overheard suggesting to Fr. Gilbert du Motier, a French priest serving as his aide, a visit to such American locations as Saratoga, New York; Yorktown, Virginia; or Cowpens, South Carolina. Vatican insiders say New Orleans and Baltimore are also likely stops on the next papal tour.
Pope Francis seemed keen to connect the American Revolution to current issues in world politics. When Dr. Green mentioned the role French and Spanish aid played in securing American independence, the pope asked Fr. du Motier to research and prepare a briefing on tensions within the European Union and the possibility of a British exit from the EU. After the tour, the pope was seen making an international phone call during which he spoke excitedly in Spanish to someone he addressed as "Generalissimo".