Yesterday, I stood on the Capitol lawn with 50,000 others to watch the Pope’s address to Congress over a live Jumbotron feed. His speech was both encouraging and challenging as he called legislative members to action on the most pressing issues of our day.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the papal address to Congress.
The role of government: Francis called the preservation of human dignity and the common good the chief aim of politics. He uplifted the vocation of the legislator, whose role is to protect the Imago Dei of every individual.
You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics…. Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.
Freedom: The Pope suggested ways to protect freedom, later mentioning specifically religious and intellectual freedom and individual rights.
Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity…. 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.
The Golden Rule: A common theme of Francis’s talks, he reminded us to give to the world what we want from it and to protect human life.
Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). This rule points us in a clear direction. 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. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
Poverty: The Pope acknowledges great progress in the global fight against poverty and encourages the American people to continue since there is still more work to be done.
How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.
Economics: The Pope called for greater wealth creation and distribution and proper employment of natural resources, as well as a harnessed spirit of enterprise.
It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. 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. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129).
Though the pontiff’s speech seemed generally political, his overall message was one of love, generosity, and hope, pointing to God.
After his address to Congress, the Holy Father stepped outside. A roar of applause and 100,000 waving hands greeted him and he humbly asked for our prayers.
You can read the full transcript of his speech here.