“It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society.” – Pope Francis in his address to Congress.
Thursday Pope Francis gave a historic State of the World addressto both branches of Congress. He challenged Congress and the American people in profound ways and received standing ovations from both Republicans and Democrats. That is no small feat and just one of the many reasons why I respect Pope Francis.
I don’t really want the Pope to be President – and he certainly doesn’t want the job. Rather he serves a powerful role as a prophetic voice to the world. It is a voice worth listening to. His is a life worth listening to.
From arriving in Washington in his little Fiat, to stopping to meet children, or avoiding a fancy lunch with politicians in favor of eating with the homeless, Pope Francis is a humble leader. His genuine humility garners respect from all sectors of society. You can always disagree with what someone says, but it is hard to disagree with a life well lived in sacrificial service to others.
Like the Jesus the Pope follows, one should be careful not to mistake meekness with weakness. The Pope immediately challenged Congress in his address: “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. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”
To the American people the Pope immediately challenged: “Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility.”
Many commentators try to put the Pope in a political agenda, but he doesn’t fit such agendas. The Pope spoke of our responsibility toward the earth and the poor, topics most often discussed by Democrats. But he spoke of the sanctity of human life and at length on family values including traditional marriage, topics most often discussed by Republicans. Immigration, refugees, religious fundamentalism, arms race, economics, and the death penalty were all addressed in thought provoking ways.
Above all the Pope addressed the need for us to put aside the rancorous divisions that presently mark America on the world stage and seek the common good. That was the theme that ran throughout his remarks. “Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good…We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”
He spoke of the way forward through living the golden rule. “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.” While framed in the immigrant and refugee crisis, the Pope was more broadly reminding us that we are “asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.”
Our legal and government systems should provide equal access to justice for all. We all have a role to play. The business owner who contributes to the common good through the “creation of jobs”. Elderly persons who “are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience” who share that experience “through volunteer work.” Young people “working to realize their great and noble aspirations”. Our unified response to the challenges of our day must “be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.”
Justice for all happens when all work together for the common good. The Pope’s ability to garner respect as he seeks to draw people together and “create bridges” for the common good, earns my vote.