On September 24, Pope Francis gave the first ever speech to Congress by a Pope. With every American lawmaker gathered in the same room, the Pope challenged the world to break out of this cycle of hatred and violence. While billions of people around the world watched, he owned the spotlight and used all 50 minutes of his speech to reiterate Catholic values and tell us how we can make the world a better place.
There are approximately 1.2 billion Catholics on the planet, and the Pope described the power all people can have if they come together as one family in Christ to do good. He emphasized unity, the importance of a strong, faithful family, and the sanctity of life at every stage of its development.
The Pope cared so much about this very speech that he spent hours practicing his English during the summer so that he could speak the language when delivering this address in America. His message was clear even though his thick Argentine accent occasionally made it difficult to make out what his exact words.
Francis 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.” He truly believes that abortion and the death penalty are wrong, and that those practices should stop. He believes that all human life is sacred no matter what, and no one deserves to die if it is not God’s will, he believes.
He also said, “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the second World War.” Along the lines of inclusion and unity, Pope Francis implored that nations should not turn these refugees away, but welcome them with open arms. They are in difficult situations and need our help, and we are called by Jesus to help those in need. He even compared the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. to the dream of the immigrants to have a better life. His analogies to famous American figures really hit home with Congress and all other Americans watching the speech.
While Republicans and Democrats clapped respectively for different points in the Pope’s speech, his words will probably not directly affect policy in any way. They likely can have an impact on society, the church, and the way these lawmakers think, the politicians in that room makes the decisions for this country.
Overall, Pope Francis received a warm welcome in the U.S. and impressed Americans with his powerful speeches and dialogues. The climax of his speech to Congress occurred when he said “God bless America” to close the dialogue and received yet another standing ovation. His words will be remembered by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and revealed how caring, thoughtful, and compassionate our new Pope is.