Washington is a deeply spiritual city today…
Who would have thought?
Maybe it’s all because of this guy Francis showing up…
Indeed Pope Francis not only came to Washington but he opened his speech to Congress by describing himself as a “son of this great continent” joined in a common purpose with America.
Pope Francis is calling for a “delicate balance” in fighting religious extremism to ensure that fundamental freedoms aren’t trampled at the same time.
He says in his speech to Congress that “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”
He says religious, intellectual and individual freedoms must be safeguarded, while at the same time, combatting violence perpetrated in the name of religion.
The pope cautioned us against simplistically breaking the world into camps of good and evil.
Francis expressed deep concern about the slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic extremists, fearing that the Christian presence itself within the region is risk. We already know that he has dispatched “Papal Envoys” to Iraq and Syria, with money and other forms of assistance to help refugees in their time of need.
Pope Francis is urging all the US Congress members — and the United States as a whole — not to be afraid of immigrants, but to welcome them as fellow human beings.
He says people are not things that can be discarded just because they are troublesome…
Francis admonition comes as the upcoming US Presidential race is roiled by questions about immigration from Mexico and Latin America amongst the GOP, and the nation is weighing how many migrants to accept from the refugees fleeing the wars of the Middle East… that were started by the invasion of Iraq.
The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina himself, Francis noted that the United States was founded by immigrants, that many lawmakers are descended from foreigners, and that this generation must not “turn their back on our neighbors.”
His plea: “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.”
Speaking to Congress, Pope Francis called for an end to the death penalty in the U.S. and across the world.
Francis says that every life is sacred and society can only benefit from rehabilitating those convicted of crimes.
The Pope noted that US bishops have renewed their call to abolish capital punishment, knowing that idea is unpopular, with many American politicians.
The Pope did not specifically mention abortion — a particularly contentious issue in Congress at the moment that threatens to force the shutdown of the US government next week, but the sanctity of Life was all over his speech.
Still, his remarks referred to the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion. He urged lawmakers and all Americans to “protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
Pope Francis has used his speech to Congress to express sympathy for American Indians for their “turbulent and violent” early contacts with arriving Europeans. But he says it is hard to judge past actions by today’s standards.
Francis did not specifically use the term American Indians. He said the rights of “those who were here long before us” were not always respected.
He says that “for those people and their nations,” he wants to express his highest esteem and appreciation.
Francis has been criticized by some Native Americans for his decision to canonize an 18th century missionary, Junipero Serra, on Wednesday. Indigenous groups say Serra was part of the violent colonizing machine that wiped out indigenous populations. Francis has defended Serra in the past as a great Evangelist who protected indigenous peoples from the abuses of colonizers.
Pope Francis is demanding an end to the arms trade, delivering a tough message to a country that is the world’s largest exporter of weapons and wars.
Speaking before Congress, the pope asked “why weapons are being sold to people who intend only to inflict suffering on innocents.” He said: “Sadly, the answer as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”
Francis has in the past denounced weapons makers and dealers as “the root of evil” and questioned how weapons manufacturers can call themselves Christian.
Francis has, however, said that it is legitimate to use military force against an “unjust aggression” such as the attacks by Islamic extremists against Christian and other religious minorities, in both Syria and Iraq.
Pope Francis is lamenting that the very basis of marriage and family life today is being put into question — an allusion to gay marriage in a country that recently legalized same-sex marriage across the land.
Speaking before Congress in the first-ever papal address, Francis said the family today is “threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.”
While Francis has shown great openness to gays as individuals, he has staunchly upheld the church teaching that marriage is a union between man and woman.
Sitting in front of Francis for his speech was John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, which legalized gay marriage across the country.
Francis is also scheduled to speak in greater depth about the threats to families at a big church rally in Philadelphia later this week.
Pope Francis has taken his call for action on climate change to Congress. In his address to lawmakers, Francis urged a “courageous and responsible effort” to avert the most serious effects of what he called the “environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”
Francis says he’s convinced that working together, nations can make a difference to slow global warming. He says the US and “this Congress” have an important role to play. Now, he says, is the time for a “culture of care.”
From the balcony of the US Capitol, Pope Francis asked a crowd of tens of thousands to pray for him.
It’s a plea he traditionally makes. But this time, speaking in Spanish, he added a line to acknowledge that not everyone in the crowd was Christian, much less a believer.
Through a translator, the pontiff said: “If among you there are some who don’t believe or who cannot pray, I ask that you send good wishes my way.”
After his speech to Congress, the pope walked onto a balcony of the Capitol and greeted the throngs with “Buenos Dias.”
He expressed gratitude for their presence and asked God to bless “the most important ones here — children.”
Francis ended his remarks in English, saying:
“Thank you very much and God bless America.”
All in all the full transcript of Pope Francis speech is here bellow:
” Dear Friends,
I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.
Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. 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. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.
Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.
Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.
I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.
My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self- sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.
I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.
All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.
Our response must instead 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. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. 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 States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.
In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.
Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.
Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.
In recent centuries, 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. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.
Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).
This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.
How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.
It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).
In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.
A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.
From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).
Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.
Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.
Four representatives of the American people.
I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.
In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.
God bless America ”
This is the most empathic speech I’ve heard in recent memory and full of Compassion. No wonder 2,5 Billion CHristians of all stripes, colours, and hues, like and love Francis above and beyond their own religious Leaders and hierarchy. Maybe because this Pope is full of empathy and compassion in all of his doings and sayings.
And also because he speaks towards a greater Cause. He seeks to cause change in our behaviour. And he seeks to motivate people to act upon the important matters we face together as Humanity. Yet in order to motivate People to action on several fronts, Pope Francis takes great care to empathize with his American audience in his historic speech to a joint session of the United States of America, government & Congress on this day.
Francis being the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics is pretty far along the road to shape their own efforts and leading his people in a certain direction — but here he speaks to everybody… He speaks to all the Christians, to all the Peoples, and all the people out there, regardless of faith, creed, or colouration.
Even if you have not been paying attention to this “Pope of the People,” who lives in a guesthouse instead of a the Papal palace inside the Vatican and who shelters refugees in the Holy See, and often eats sharing food with the poor and homeless — You must have seen how this man always shows humble grace, compassion, and humility. Having a humble heart is essential for all of us even before getting up to speak to an audience — but for this Pope the main tool at his disposal is empathy. This is crucial because the Pope as the Speaker seeks to connect fully knowing that He isn’t the hero who will bring his vision to life. Clearly the audience is the hero, and as in this case the audience is the Parliament of the most powerful nation on Earth — he seeks to motivate them to the Good. Still the Pope like a good shepherd, and the speaker, plays the role of the mentor who counsels his audience on how to best heed the call to Righteousness and Positive Change.
Francis began his speech by affirming and empowering each segment of his audience to fully embody their roles as heroes. He first addresses the audience directly before him – Congress – by saying: “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 … To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”
He also acknowledges all of the other American audiences out there, that are sure to be listening to his message: Those who “strive each day to do an honest day’s work,” the elderly “who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience,” and the young “who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals.” In describing each of these audience segments, Francis is trying to imagine, as much as he can, what it’s like to live their lives. He’s speaking as if in their voices, putting on their values, their dreams, and their concerns about America.
After acknowledging the unique perspectives of each person in his audience, Francis unites these segments by showing his personal love and enthusiasm for the common beliefs that they all share. His very first line gets a round of applause from Congress when he uses the phrase all Americans cherish: “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” He continues to speak in Americans’ language by referring throughout the speech to “the American dream” and “God bless America.” He also demonstrates his personal connection to America, saying, “I would like to think that the reason for this is that I, too, am a son of this great continent” – meaning North and South America – “from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.”
Born and raised in Argentina, today’s Pope Francis shows his respect for the values of a culture that’s foreign to his own and draws similarities between the two by saying, “I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.”
After conveying reverence for American beliefs, Francis mentioned key American figures in history who heeded the call to make those beliefs reality. He addressed the need to overcome the polarization and divisions within our nation today by talking about Abraham Lincoln. But he did it in a way that allowed the audience to make their own connections between the past and the present.
Calling up Lincoln in his audience’s minds, Francis next spoke against “the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.” In doing this, he echoed this passage in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address where Lincoln spoke of the two sides of the Civil War, and how each saw themselves as righteous: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other … The prayers of both could not be answered.”
Francis continued to emulate Lincoln’s ideas when he warns his audience of falling into these old patterns: “We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within.” Without explicitly calling out Lincoln’s words or the Civil War, Francis allows the audience to connect the dots. This serves as a sober warning to the dangers of divisiveness if left unchecked.
Next, Francis talked about “the American dream” through the lens of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and his fight for civil rights. He went on to connect this significant moment in American history with an issue that his audience still wrestles with today—immigration. Echoing King’s spirit, he counseled his audience to work in the same spirit: “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”
Francis continued with his last two mentions of historical figures, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. He mentioned Day, the founder of the Catholic worker movement during the Great Depression, in order to talk not only about the impact of economic realities on human beings but also on the environment. And he talked about Merton as a model “man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions, on the need for dialogue between nations.”
By deeply engaging with his audience’s history and culture, Pope Francis showed his audience that he “got” them – that he understood what makes them speak up and what they fight for. By showing his respect for and understanding of his audience’s values, his audience felt comfortable listening to him. They were more open to the possibility of putting on new perspectives and moving towards a new vision of the future.
Methinks that this Pope Francis “gets” the American people even better than their own leaders do.
All in all a very unusual day of Spiritual Peace in Washington.
Let’s pray that it will last…