Today, Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome and leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, made history by becoming the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. The Pope delivered a message of hope, renewal and inclusion; not one steeped in religious dogma. As a prime example, when he spoke of the sanctity of life, he did not go on to discuss the rights of the unborn but those of the living. The Pope strongly spoke of his opposition to the death penalty.
The Pope praised politics as a noble calling but challenged the lawmakers to find their “better selves” and work together for the good of all. “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics,” said the Pope.
Speaking not only of a divided Congress but a divided world, the pontiff said, “Our response must be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises.”
In his strongest exhortation, the Pope stressed,” We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good. The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United Sates.” The Pope said this could be accomplished while at the same time respecting “our differences and our convictions of conscience.”
When the Pope spoke of his own experience as an immigrant, it seemed to bring a tear to the eye of Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican presidential candidate and son of Cuban immigrants. “In recent years,” said the Pope, “millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.”
One of the more recurring themes throughout the Pope’s address was the need to work towards the “common good.” He warned that this cannot be accomplished if the world is seen through Bushonian lenses of black or white, “as only good or evil; or, the righteous and sinners.”
Will the Pope’s message of hope, renewal and the moral imperative of working towards the common good sway a divided Congress? Will the Congress of nope heed the Pope of hope? Only time will tell, as our country seems headed towards another government shutdown over the funding of a health service for the poor and marginalized among us.
Photo | Zach Gibson/The New York Times