MCALLEN, TX (KTRK) -- Members of the faithful got quite a surprise Monday, participating in a virtual chat with Pope Francis, hosted by ABC News.
The Pope addressed groups in McAllen, Texas, Chicago and Los Angeles, all regions he won't be visiting when he comes to the U.S. next month.
The McAllen event was hosted at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which has served as an immigration relief center for more than a year.
In the last 14 months, the church has been the first stop for more than 20,000 immigrants - many of them children - flooding across our border. They're still arriving at this church hall-turned-shelter today.
So it should come as no surprise that Pope Francis chose this church and its people to be some of the first he speaks to in the states.
"His words are always words of encouragement," said Sister Norma Pimentel with Catholic Charities.
More than his predecessors, Pope Francis has wandered into the political realm, and during his trip to the United States next month, he will address a historic joint session of Congress.
Nearly every observer expects him to talk tough on immigration reform. The audience in McAllen is hoping he can do what politicians haven't.
"Inspire people to actually believe in something that's right and not keep filling people's heads with Ideas and false promises," said Richardo Ortiz of Houston.
On Monday, Pope Francis called immigrant rights a human issue. In the past, he has called for far more liberal policies and at one point, said he wanted to walk across the Texas border into the state to highlight the immigrants' struggle.
Monday's town hall had to take the place of that.
"If people of good will open their hearts to listen, they will allow the holy spirit to touch them," said SisterPimentel. "His words are very powerful."
You can see much more of the virtual chats during a special edition of 20/20: Pope Francis and the People. That begins at 9pm Friday night on ABC-13.