Sees similarities between friars’ and Francis’ messages

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

When Pope Francis joins an interfaith group at the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan on Friday (Sept. 25), a face from Philipstown will be there, too.

Father Elias Mallon, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement headquartered at Graymoor in Garrison, was invited to participate in the gathering at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Mallon serves as external affairs officer of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a New York City-based organization for fighting poverty in the Middle East and beyond through projects to improve infrastructure such as irrigation, provide education and aid refugees, including those fleeing Syria.

Father Elias Mallon (photo provided)
Father Elias Mallon (photo provided)

The pope’s 40-hour visit to New York, which began Thursday afternoon and concludes Sunday morning when he departs for Philadelphia, includes an evening prayer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, an address to the U.N. General Assembly, the service at the 9/11 Memorial, a visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, a motorcade through Central Park and a mass at Madison Square Garden.

In an interview, Father Mallon noted that in addition to representatives of the world’s three largest monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the ground zero event would include believers from the Native American spirituality, Buddhist and Hindu communities. “If a religion is represented in New York City, it will be there,” Mallon said. That inclusiveness, he added, “was very much” Pope Francis’ doing.

He finds parallels between the approaches and ideals of Graymoor and the pope, a Jesuit who took his papal name from Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan order. “With the pope, the Friars and Sisters of the Atonement are trying, through the work of unity and reconciliation, to make the world a better, safer place for everybody,” Mallon explained.

Pope Francis (photo by  L'Osservatore Romano/
Pope Francis (photo by  L’Osservatore Romano/

The pope “is profoundly concerned about Christian ecumenism with the Protestant churches, the Orthodox churches,” Mallon said, and with dialogue “with religious people around the world and what I call religious-conflict resolution. I can’t remember a pope since John XXIII who was so committed to ecumenism.”

Mallon pointed out that Francis’ recent encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home,” released on May 24 (online at, concludes with two prayers – one in a form familiar to Christians and one that Jews, Muslims and others can recite. “It’s incredible,” he said. “I don’t think any [other] pope ever wrote a prayer for non-Christians.”

During his visit to New York, the pope was expected to emphasize “our shared responsibilities to the planet – if the planet goes down, we all go down with it,” Mallon said, and about “our common call as believers to work for peace and justice in the world.” Francis, he observed, “is not just concerned about people going to church. He’s very concerned about children going to bed hungry.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government