Pope Francis speaks to a joint session of Congress in Washington DC

Unknown-1  [By Christopher White from Catholic Voices USA] In his historic address to the United States Congress—the first in the history of the United States—Pope Francis used the lives of four prominent Americans to illustrate Catholic Social Teaching. In Abraham Lincoln, he observed that Lincoln’s commitment to liberty mirrors that of the Church’s commitment to both religious liberty and individual freedom. In discussing the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., he noted that he had a dream that all men were created equal. He urged Americans to capture that same spirit and recognize the dignity and value of immigrants to this country. Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, fought for the value of workers. Francis used her legacy to heed congress to build an economy of inclusion. He affirmed that business is a noble enterprise but that it must be at the service of people. Lastly, he used the life of the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton to call for dialogue among people of all nations and peaceful coexistence. He memorably joined the U.S. Catholic Bishops in urging for the abolition of the death penalty. He rebuked the arms trade and urged for Congressional action on the environment. Finally, he ended his address stating that the primary reason for his visit to the United States was for the World Meeting of Families. He used this occasion to urge for a strong defense of marriage and family life, which has contributed so much to the success of the United States.

On the role of politics he said:

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

On immigration and refugees:

“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.’”

On human life:

“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.”

“A just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

On the economy:

“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.”

On the environment:

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.’”

On marriage and family:

“How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement!”

“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.”

 Click here for the full text of the address.

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