On Thursday, September 24, (Wednesday, September 23 in the United States) I watched Pope Francis in his visit with President Barack Obama and his family in the White House, and later as he delivered his speech in the U.S. Congress that he regarded as his dialogue with America. He struggled in delivering his speech in English for he is a native speaker of Spanish and Italian.
He quoted America as â€œthe Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,â€ also known as the mighty nation and global superpower. In his speeches and his drive along the way he showed his warm love and deep concern for the people who came to greet him.
As a Latin American (an Italian immigrant to Argentina) this was the first time he visited the United States. He is also the first Pope ever invited to address the U.S. Congress. To 1.2 billion Catholics and many other Christians we regard the Pope as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, the present successor to St. Peter, the Jesuit Bishop of Rome, and the Head of State of the tiny Vatican.
Dramatically, Pope Francis has emerged as the worldâ€™s most sought after, popular, and beloved leader. As was Pope John Paul II, now Saint John Paul, in his time.
Thanks to EWTN and CNN, up close I have followed Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis in their global apostleship.
Challenge and admonition. Pope Francis challenged the mightiest nation in history, the leading superpower, â€œto break out of its cycle of polarization and paralysis to finally use its power to heal the â€˜open woundsâ€™ of a planet torn by hatred, greed, poverty and pollution.â€ He made â€œa powerful defense of immigration, a critique of the excesses of capitalism, an endorsement of environmental legislation, a blistering condemnation of the arms trade, and a plea to abolish the death penalty globally.â€ (New York Times News Service).
He beseeched super-rich America â€œto not let money drive its decisions at the expense of humanity.â€ He said: â€œPolitics is instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, the greatest common good.â€ He strongly â€œdefended religious liberty and the traditional family at a time when the United States had just legalized same sex marriage.â€ (New York Times News Service).
The role of politics. â€œIf politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.â€ xxx â€œPolitics is instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one, the greatest common good.â€
Humility, devotion of exemplary role models. â€œA nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Abraham Lincoln did; when it fosters a culture which enables people to dream of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work; the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.â€ (New York Times News Service, September 24, 2015.
Defense of religious liberty and the traditional family. â€œI 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 the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and beauty of family life.â€
â€œWe were once foreigners.â€ By this statement the Pope underlined the fact that the American continent, North and South, is the land of immigrants, including himself. So â€œWe 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.â€
The Golden Rule. â€œThe Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every person is endowed with an inalienable dignity and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.â€ Thus his call for abolishing the death penalty.
The neediest and the creation and distribution of wealth. â€œI 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. xxx and â€œit goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. xxx While business is a noble vocation,â€ it must be an essential part of its service to the common good.â€
â€œStop the arms trade.â€ He asked: â€œWhy are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? xxx Sadly, the answer we all know is simply for moneyâ€”money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade.â€
How was Pope Francis invited to the United States and speak to the U.S. Congress? Iâ€™d speculate. President Barrack Obama had met and admired the Pope who had vitally helped in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Speaker John A. Boehner, a proud Catholic Republican from Ohio has tried for 20 years to get a pope to come to Capitol Hill. His Democratic counterpart. Nancy Pelosi of California is also a Catholic with a strong affinity for the Pope. Two-term Vice-President Joseph Biden who presides over the U.S. Senate is a Catholic who has long favored the Popeâ€™s speaking to the U.S. Congress.
My debt of learning from Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have deeply instructed and inspired me as a Catholic Filipino, a political scientist, and an advocate of nonkilling peace and the reform of our political institutions through Charter change.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ (By Jose â€œPepeâ€ Abueva)