Pope Francis addresses U.S. Congress – Washington DC – September 24, 2015
Photo Credit: Catholic News Agency (L’Osservatore Romano)
Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church headquartered in Vatican City, is the latest celebrity to hit the shores of America. When he arrived at Joint Base Andrews on September 22, President Obama received him with the honors due a Head of State. After his reception at the White House in Washington D.C. and engagements in New York City, the pope headed for Philadelphia on Saturday morning and will fly out on Sunday evening for Rome. For his seventy-eight years, he sure has a lot of stamina.
The Church’s first Latin American pope has brought much needed fresh air to an institution beset by internal political strife, sex abuse scandal, and rising secularism. Since taking over the leadership position, Pope Francis has called on all Catholics to focus on Jesus’ message of love, forgiveness, and care of the most vulnerable among us. In setting the example with a simple lifestyle and his concern for the poor of our world, the Holy Father has won many admirers inside and outside of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis spoke with the calm humility of an elder. He didn’t threaten the sinner with eternal damnation in Hell. In his address to the U.S. Congress on September 24, he said: “we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.”
This doesn’t mean that the Church will soon open its arms to gay couples, individuals who have divorced and remarried, and women who have had abortions. Not at all. The pope made this clear when he later expressed concern that “fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.”
Pope Francis called on the members of the U.S. Congress to work towards the common good of all its citizens. “Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you… 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.”
Working towards the common good involves our planet. “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
It also means ending wars and the arms trade that feeds it. A trade driven by money: “money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”
Will the message of Pope Francis be choked by the thorns of congressional members who prioritize the needs of the wealthy One Percent, leaving the rest of us to manage as best as we could? That will depend upon us.