On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24, Pope Francis spoke to a joint congress at the House Chamber, becoming the first pontiff to speak to both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Pope chose to support different aspects of both left and right agendas, speaking toward significant social issues dividing the American people.
The Pope supported a numbers of liberal causes. Speaking toward the liberal agenda, the Bishop of Rome first called on Americans to embrace immigrants. He reminded America that the country itself is a land of immigrants.
“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…Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12),” Francis spoke.
The Pope also urged for the abolishment of the international trade of war weapons, citing money “that is drenched in blood” as the cause for the trade.
Francis reaffirmed his dedication to fight climate change. Francis even complimented “America’s outstanding academic and research institutions” on their continued and future contributions to this cause.
“I call for a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps’ (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity,” Francis said.
Catholic student Lavinia Boettcher ’17 supported the Pope’s continued message to combat climate change.
“I definitely agree with [his support for fighting climate change]. I think it’s something that has an impact on the environment [For him] to support it is great [and it shows] a more liberal [side],” Boettcher said.
He also advocated for the “for the global abolition of the death penalty” due to the unending hope for safe rehabilitation into society
To the right, Francis supported the pro-life debate in order to “defend human life at every stage of its development.” Republicans applauded at Francis’ support in light of their recent action to try and defund Planned Parenthood.
Pope Francis also addressed same-sex marriage, standing by the conservative thought of a traditional family.
“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,” Francis said.
With support for contentious social issues flying to both political sides from the pontiff, Pope Francis urged that the increasing divide in American politics be rejuvenated with “a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity.” He told Congress that the only solution to these difficult social issues was cooperation between left and right.
Gracie Atlee ’17, who is Catholic, supported the Pope’s message of solidarity but said she doubts the reality that the parties will soon agree.
“I think it’s a message that everyone has been thinking about for the last few years and the last few elections. It’s noticing the stratification and the disunity of the two parties. I think that it’s important to find more unity, but now I don’t think it’s going to happen before this [upcoming] election,” Atlee said.
Champion of the poor, Pope Francis also emphasized the fight against poverty throughout his address.
“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. …I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem,” Francis said.
Atlee thinks that while fighting poverty is a universal challenge, the Pope’s poverty mission leans more left.
“I’d say it’s geared toward both parties, but more toward the Democratic agenda because the Republicans don’t generally support welfare. I think it had aspects that both parties could lean on,” Atlee said.
Pope Francis’ continuing support of the poor all over the world has been a highlight of his office.
Acting upon his message of urgency to combat poverty, the much-admired Pope traveled directly to eat lunch with 300 mentally disabled, homeless, substance abusing people at Catholic Charities after his morning at Capitol Hill.