Last month, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges' scheduler stopped by her office to relay an unusual message.
The Vatican was interested in the mayor meeting with the pope to discuss climate change and human trafficking. Should she add it to Hodges' schedule?
"That's a once-in-a-lifetime moment right there, I think," Hodges said.
On July 21, the mayor will join the leaders of eight other U.S. cities and the mayors of cities from around the world for a meeting with the pope. The following day, Hodges and the other mayors will also attend a symposium on climate change and sustainability. Hodges said the group will get about 30 minutes with the pope, who recently addressed climate change in his encyclical letter sent to leaders in the Catholic Church.
"The pope has indicated he sees a link between climate change and human trafficking in part because of the level of poverty around the world and the impact climate change has on poverty and also on forced migration -- two conditions that breed human trafficking," Hodges said.
Both topics have previously been highlighted by the mayor, who pointed to the city's recent efforts in expanding organics recycling and working toward sustainability goals through its Clean Energy Partnership with utilities.
Hodges said she's interested to hear how the mayors of cities ranging from Vancouver, Canada, to Tehran, Iran, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are addressing climate change. Hodges is the only Midwestern mayor invited to the conference. Other U.S. cities that will be represented include Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New Orleans and Birmingham, Alabama.
The mayor said her travel expenses will be paid by the organizers of the summit. She plans to stay in Italy for a few extra days, at her own expense. Hodges' chief of staff, John Stiles, will also make the trip.
Hodges said she's still figuring out how to share what she learns when she returns home.
"I think I'm going to be bringing home ideas and action steps to implement and organize around," she said.