Something to Think About: The Pope in America
September 28, 2015
Everyone loves the Pope.
If you own a television or a computer or, actually, ever leave your house, you are probably aware that Pope Francis made a visit to the United States last week.
This is a big deal and for a lot of reasons.
Here are three:
- Pope Francis is not just any pope.
The Pope has stirred up a lot of controversy (the good kind, in my opinion) over his interpretations of Catholic teachings. He preaches tolerance, acceptance and love. These topics may not sound very controversial, but through them, Pope Francis has called for the acceptance of the LGBT community, criticized income inequality and challenged several other facets of conservative ideology.
Essentially, a lot of liberals love him and some conservatives don’t.
And that is weird.
For centuries the Catholic Church has embodied the beliefs of social conservatives. And yet, in the past few years, we have seen people like Sarah Palin criticize Pope Francis for being too liberal.
I mean, Bernie Sanders loves the Pope. Bernie Sanders. That’s saying something.
- No pope has ever addressed both chambers of Congress.
Pope Francis’s presence in the United States has raised questions about the separation of church and state and whether it was appropriate for him to address our legislature.
Frankly, out of all of the questions we as a country should be asking ourselves in light of the Pope’s visit, I find those to be the least interesting.
The purpose of the speech in Congress was not to advocate for the Catholic Church or religion in general.
Of course, Pope Francis’s beliefs are informed by his faith.
But the same thing can be said about the 92% of congressmen that are Christian. And the other about 7% that associate themselves with a religion. Faith and morals are connected. They always have been. And a person’s morals are (call me an optimist) the foundation of their political beliefs.
- Congress listened.
It is perhaps his ability to reach across party lines that made Pope Francis so influential when he spoke to Congress.
In his speech, the Pope discussed the lives and accomplishments of four Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Through their stories, Pope Francis espoused liberty, justice, equality and many other fundamental American values. However, in doing this, he posed serious questions about the consequences of American actions.
He called for the acceptance of immigrants. The end of the death penalty. The recognition of black rights. The equality of all people. The continuation of the American Dream.
Pope Francis’s ability to both completely understand and objectively criticize the tenets of our country was astonishing.
I think that was what impacted people the most. That, and the fact that his intentions come from a place of compassion and empathy.
In his closing remarks to Congress, the Pope expressed what we as Americans hope for our future generations and have hoped for since the beginning of our country – a better tomorrow.
“I have sought to present some of the richness of your culture, heritage, of the spirit of the American people,” he said. “It is my desire that this spirit continues to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land that has inspired so many people to dream.”
Watch Pope Francis’s speech to Congress here: