Non-Catholic’s voice their opinion on Pope’s visit
February 2, 2016
The Pope’s upcoming visit to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, has brought excitement and anticipation to El Paso. But some students reacted negatively.
Members of the University Atheists and Secular Humanists organization, previously known as The Atheists, spoke up for their beliefs and other student’s rights to oppose the closure of campus.
Senior computer science major Geoni Griffin said that although he doesn’t care about the visit, he does think the entire thing is over the top.
“Personally, I think it is crazy how crazy people get over this one person who they decide to give so much power and supposedly speaking the word of god,” Griffin said. “But if that’s what they say and that’s what they believe, that’s fine. I just wish they got this excited about scientists coming to town.”
Although Pope Francis is not expected to cross over into El Paso, the visit has caused schools, including UTEP, some businesses and city hall to close on Feb. 17.
UTEP classes will resume on Feb. 18, leaving students to make up the day on May 6, which is dead day.
The Catholic Diocese of El Paso reported that out of a population of 858,546 residents, 686,037 are Catholic.
At UTEP, 83.5 percent of students are from El Paso County, which means there is a lot of on-campus support for the papal visit.
“They didn’t even shut down everything for the president and the Pope gets so much attention,” Griffin said.
Director of Religious Studies and senior lecturer, Ann Horak, said that although some of her students are excited for the Pope’s visit, some are just excited to have the day off.
Horak said that the Pope’s visit is wonderful for the city of Juárez and its citizens, but has heard some dissenting opinions from both Catholic and non-Catholics.
“Many people, Catholic and non-Catholic, are concerned about the amount of money the city of El Paso is planning to spend on the Pope’s visit,” Horack said. “The city needs to be very forthright in showing what expenses are necessary for public safety and be very careful not to cross the link into endorsing the religious activities of one faith community.”
A member from the University Atheists and Secular Humanists, who for security reasons asked that his name not be published, expressed his opinion about the Pope’s visit.
The senior multidisciplinary studies major considers himself agnostic and said that UTEP is infringing on the separation of church and state.
“There is a separation between church and state and there is a reason for that,” the student said. “It can be considered disrespectful, to put it mildly, to the rest of the populous to just be doing something like that (closing campus).”
He also said that he does plan on following the Pope’s visit to Juárez out of curiosity about what he has to say. He says that if someone were inspired by what Pope Francis has to say, then all of this would be worth it.
“If some little word inspires someone and changes somebody’s life for the better, it’s all worth it. And if it doesn’t bother you, just stay at home and watch TV, do your own thing and just live and let live,” the student said. “Everyone is entitled to their beliefs as long as they are not harming anybody.”
Amanda Guillen may be reached at [email protected].