Pope Francis’ Call to Congress
During the Pope’s historic speech to the US Congress, he basically rearranged the political priorities of American Catholics leading a public life.
In his short address, he mentioned little of abortion and same-sex marriage. Pope Francis (who is actually the first Pope to address the US Congress, and the first Pope from Latin America) put great emphasis on the death penalty, immigration, racial injustice, weapons trade, and poverty.
The Pope’s speech somehow showed his anti-Trump position, as the anti-thesis of the GOP frontrunner —- the billionaire insists on amassing the might of the military, deporting the illegal immigrants, as well as building a wall between Mexico and the United States.
Furthermore, the Pope also called for the global abolition of the death penalty.
The Pope’s Speech
The Pope spoke to the congress about “money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood,” referring to the selling of weapons. “In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade,” the Pope said.
Giving joy to the conservatives in the room, the Pope included human dignity in his speech, even the protection and defending of “human life at every stage of development.”
However, as soon as the initial applause died down, the Pope made no obvious reference to abortion anymore and turned immediately to his campaign on abolishing the death penalty.
He said, “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.”
The New York Times also recognized the pope’s unexpected change of topic; they described it as how, “instead of continuing on to talk about the need to end abortion, he pivots to the death penalty.”
The Pope’s speech also favored several democratic issues including allowing immigration and acceptance of refugees, confrontation of poverty, and environmental protection from “deterioration caused by human activity”.
A number of pro-life advocates expressed their opposition to death penalty, and they are very strong advocates for the poor, immigrants, as well as the environment — while expressing their views on handling these issues politically.
However, the conclusion of the Pope’s speech is a great victory for the Democrats and the so-called social justice Catholics who consider themselves as pro-life advocates despite supporting abortion by appealing that they are against death penalty and other political and social issues.
Notable Moments during the Pope’s Speech
- The Pope Embraces John Kerry. On his way to the chamber, the Pope didn’t shake many hands. However, Pope Francis made a point of shaking the hand of the Secretary of State John Kerry. This is a major change for the church as church officials denied Kerry communion in 2004 for his support of the rights to abortion when he was included in the Democratic nominee for president.
- The call to rise above polarization. Pope Francis made a point against the “temptation” of “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.” Later, he said, “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.”
- A call to welcome immigrants and refugees. In his speech, he noted that the world is facing refugee crisis that is more than that of the crisis experienced during World War II. Thousands of people travel north for greener pastures, not only for themselves but for their loved ones. He reminded everyone of the Golden Rule which is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This reference, earned him the biggest applause and standing ovation.
- A reminder about abortion. He also referenced the Golden Rule in his call “to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development”. This received big applause from the Republicans. However, the Pope then reminded them of the Catholic’s “pro-life” belief.
- Advocacy to the abolition of the death penalty. The Pope expresses support to his brother bishops in the US as they renewed their call to abolish the death penalty in the country. He also offered encouragement to people who are convinced that a “just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
- On poverty and wealth distribution. He reminded the Congress to create and distribute wealth and give hope to those who are trapped in the cycle of poverty.
- Businesses should aim to “service to the common good”. He notes that “business is a noble vocation” as it aims to produce wealth, helping the world improve. It is a fruitful source of prosperity to people, especially if “creating jobs” is a major part of giving “service to the common good.”
- The call to act on climate change. The common good, according to the Pope, also includes caring for the Earth. Thus, he calls for efforts of redirecting and averting the effects of environmental issues caused by humans. Now is the right time to implement actions and strategies aimed at promoting the culture of care and integrating approach to combatting poverty and restoring dignity.
- The call to stop trade of weapons. This call is aimed to stop the numerous armed conflicts throughout the world. He said that the reason why deadly weapons are sold to those who plans to inflict suffering to the society is “simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”
- The essence of family and marriage. The Pope points out the importance of family in building the nation and how worthy it is for everybody’s support and encouragement. However, he cannot hide his concern on how this basic relationship is called into question. He said, “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.”