The first ever papal address of Congress was delivered this morning. Pope Francis touched on issues that are important to both Democrats and Republicans in the roughly 1-hour speech.
Senator Roy Blunt (R) had hoped the pope would speak about religious freedom and tolerance, and he did.
“It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard for it is the voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society,” said Francis.
Some lawmakers had hoped the pope would spend time talking about immigration, and a great portion of the address was on that issue.
Francis said the world is facing a refugee crisis of a scale not seen since the Second World War. He seemed to reference immigration from Mexico to the U.S., saying, “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?”
He called on people to remember the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and in referencing that passage from the Gospel of Matthew, segued into speaking about the Catholic Church’s position on abortion and the death penalty.
“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of development,” said Francis.
The pope said no more that seemed a direct reference to abortion, but of the death penalty he said he is convinced its abolition, “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.”
Francis spent a great portion of his address speaking about climate change. He referenced his encyclical letter Laudato Si, in which he called for, “a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps,’ 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,” said the pope.
Eastern Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, who had earlier told Missourinet he wanted to see the pope keep his comments on religious guidance, did not offer objection to what the Catholic Church’s leader had to say about climate change in the address.
“Today marks an incredibly historic day as Pope Francis is the first pope to ever address Congress,” Luetkemeyer said in a statement. “As a lifelong member of the Catholic Church, I was honored to sit in the House chamber as Pope Francis spoke about the importance of family and our shared goal of putting people first so everyone has an opportunity to get ahead.”
“I have great faith that the Holy Father will continue to spread his message of peach and hope all over the world and he will lead our worldwide community forward as we confront new challenges in a continuously changing world,” Luetkemeyer continued.
Senator Blunt called the pope’s message, “hopeful, and his personal example inspiring. Congress should always remember that what we do here is more important that who we are.”
Northern Missouri Congressman Sam Graves said he was, “humbled to have had the opportunity to hear the Pope speak on the House floor. As a nation, we share so many of the same principles he touched on today, including the value of family, the need to protect life at every stage, and the responsibility to care for the most vulnerable among us.”
“The pope’s historic visit to Congress reinforces our shared goal of giving everyone the opportunity to pursue a better life,” added Graves.