Pope Francis delivered a historic address to a joint meeting of Congress, discussing everything from the necessity of religious freedom to embracing immigrants in the U.S. and urging lawmakers to work together for the greater good.
“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," he said, with some audience members, including House Speaker John Boehner, in tears.
He urged Americans to not be “fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.” This allowed him to pivot to addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. “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.”
Francis also called upon Congress to consider the abolition of the death penalty. “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.”
Notably as well, Pope Francis said something must be done “to avert the most serious effects of the environmental detioration caused by human activity,” and chastized the gun trade: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering?”
Finally, he implicitly took on same-sex marriage, emphasizing the importance of family life.
“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.”After the address, Francis took to Capitol’s balcony to talk to the estimated 50,000 people awaiting him on the lawn. “I ask you please to send good wishes my way,” he said, with Boehner weeping in the background. “God bless America.”