Durham and Raleigh mayors witness pope’s visit to US

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – While millions have been watching coverage of the pope’s visit to America, some people from North Carolina have been watching from just a few feet away.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell received an invitation to the White House to see the pope’s address on the South Lawn and meet with administration officials this week.

“I’ve been in Washington many times, but there was a lot of electricity in the air, I mean, there really was,” said Bell. “He has so much humility, very engaging. And the issues that he’s talking about are issues that are particularly relevant to today.”

Bell noted Pope Francis’ focus on poverty, an issue he says he’s trying to address in Durham.

“When you talk about dealing with the poor, the poor is all around. Every country, every place, every home, every city. I think people can identify with that. But, to have it come from his level, it just gives it a lot more importance,” said Bell.

Bell attended the event alongside Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane.

Beyond the celebration surrounding the pope’s visit, the mayors also spent time meeting with Obama administration officials about issues at home.

Bell said they discussed Durham County’s participation in Obama’s initiative “My Brother’s Keeper.” It aims to give young men of color the chance to get better educational and work opportunities.

The mayor said the pope reinforced the purpose and mission of that program.

He said, “In a way, that’s what [the Pope] was saying. We really are our brothers’ keepers, our sisters’ keepers. We need to look out for the least of us.”

Bell said the atmosphere in Washington reminded him of Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

While the mayor isn’t Catholic, he says the pope has excelled at focusing on issues of relevance in today’s society. He says that’s getting the attention of many non-Catholics like himself.

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