Pope Francis Has A Very Stern Message For GOP Extremist And They’re Not Going To Like It

Greenville Gazette, September 29, 2015

On Sept. 24, Pope Francis gave his first address to the United States Congress. The speech, which pushed a message of peace, environmental responsibility and economic justice, did not go over well with House Republicans.

House Majority Leader John Boehner invited the Pope to speak, but the pontiff’s politically-charged address condemned many policies that the GOP promotes and called out the House for refusing to enact meaningful change in America and around the world.

The Bishop of Rome issued a particularly strong warning about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and extremism.

“Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and religion,” he said. “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind.”

The Pope’s words floated awkwardly over the House chamber, which was filled with GOP politicians who are known for their dysfunctional obstructionism and extremism. Instead of trying to address the nation’s real problems, Republicans have wasted time attacking President Obama and fighting pointless culture wars. They have attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 54 times, threatened to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood and fought sensible gun-control policies that could save lives. Meanwhile, they plot to drag the country into yet another protracted, expensive and unwinnable foreign war.

The Pope seemed to be speaking directly to do-nothing Republicans when he said that leaders must avoid “simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil.” He also said that the “contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.”

http://www.greenvillegazette.com/pope-francis-has-a-very-stern-message-for-gop-extremist-and-theyre-not-going-to-like-it/

Francis, Apostle of Politics and Pluralism

Blogs » Spiritual Politics by Mark Silk, religionnews.com,

On his first trip to the United States, Pope Francis communicated a vision of politics and pluralism that is rapidly becoming the signature social philosophy of his papacy.

In his address to Congress, Francis emphasized the importance of politics as a countervailing force to economic power (just as he had in his encyclical Laudato Si’):

If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Similarly, at the United Nations, he stressed that in a world “marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power,” the juridical and political capacity of the U.N. is “an essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities.”

Francis’ valorization of politics doubtless derives from his experience living under a repressive military regime in a continent where all too often repressive military regimes have exploited the populace for the benefit of domestic elites and foreign economic interests. It is important to recognize that his concern is not about the relative power of government vis-a-vis the private sector so much as about how humanity makes decisions.

The late economist Albert O. Hirschman differentiated political and economic decision-making in terms of “voice” and “exit.” Politics is all about people using their voices to persuade each other of the right way to proceed together. Economics is all about individuals using resources to abandon — exit — one product or situation and take up another. The conservative desire for privatization and deregulation, for market-based solutions to every problem, expresses the preference for exit over voice.

Francis is emphatically in favor of voice, and not just because, in democratic societies, it ensures that those with the fewest opportunities for exit can influence the choices that are made. It’s also because he believes that, in a world where unfettered economic and technological power makes for social and cultural uniformity, voice equals diversity.

“You should never be ashamed of your traditions,” he told immigrants in his speech at Independence Hall Saturday. “Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”

At Friday’s ecumenical prayer service at Ground Zero in Manhattan, he said, “It is a source of great hope that in this place of sorrow and remembrance I can join with leaders representing the many religious traditions which enrich the life of this great city.” At Independence Hall he shaped praise of religious liberty into an “imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.” And he made an unscheduled stop at St. Joseph’s University with his friend and compatriot Rabbi Abraham Skorka to bless a new sculpture showing figures representing synagogue and church communing with each other.

Voice means dialogue, and in Congress Francis described his own desire to engage in dialogue with the working poor, the old, the young, and with the assembled legislators who have turned talking past each other into way of life. Nor did he exempt his church from this imperative, condemning “inner circles” as a “perversion of faith,” heaping praise and thanks on the nuns his predecessor subjected to ecclesiastical scrutiny and censure, and telling bishops they must “seek out” and “accompany” those whose behavior is unacceptable rather than contenting themselves with “explaining” church teaching.

Francis’ vision has, like all visions, blind spots. He may underestimate the extent to which market forces can enhance diversity. His appreciation of the gifts that different groups bring to the table leaves advocates for women’s full equality in his church cold. And while he is the first pope to publicly acknowledge the malfeasance of bishops in covering up clerical sexual abuse, the poor and the immigrant seem to draw his empathy more easily than the victims of abusive priests.

But his embrace of politics as such represents a real advance in Catholic social teaching. And his appreciation of diversity as a good in itself, inside as well as outside the church, is not something we’re accustomed to hearing from popes. At a time when diversity has become a dirty word in many societies, and when democratic politics frequently seems incapable of meeting the challenges they face, Pope Francis offers a compelling advocacy of both. We are all in his debt.

- See more at: http://marksilk.religionnews.com/2015/09/28/francis-apostle-of-politics-and-pluralism/#sthash.cZaPlwY7.dpuf

 

 

Pope Francis – excerpts and links

Pope Francis addresses Joint Session of Congress – FULL SPEECH (C-SPAN)

Pope Francis Is Speaking Truth To Power. Let’s Answer His Call To Action by Rep. Keith Ellison, Co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus; U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th District, HuffingtonPost.com, September 23, 2015 This week the Pope, the world’s most influential religious leader, is speaking to the world’s most powerful legislature. The Pope’s message of helping the poor, healing the planet, and balancing the scales of justice is a timely call to action. People everywhere will hear the Pope speak their truth to the most powerful interests in the world.

Pope Francis Confronts Right-Wing Media Vitriol | BillMoyers.com, Facebook, September 26, 2015 If you don’t watch Fox News or listen to right-wing radio, you probably aren’t aware of the negative coverage the pope and his message are receiving this week. Media Matters for America compiled this video: How Right-Wing Media Are Welcoming Pope Francis To America 

Francis: When a Visitor Changes Your Home by Jim Wallis By Jim Wallis, Sojourners,09-25-2015 Excerpt: …“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,” he said… Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Matt. 7:12).”… he spoke powerfully, in ways that transverse and transcend American political lines… He then asked for the prayers of all Americans, and the good wishes of non-believers, saying, “I ask you all please to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to please send good wishes my way.”… In the past two days, I have heard the messages of the gospel that Sojourners has spread over four decades presented at the nation’s primary venues of power and lifted up as the country’s leading national media story…. In a clear message and mandate to Congress, Pope Francis said, “Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

Senator Bernie Sanders talks about Pope Francis, Facebook, September 24, 2015

A Francis Effect for a Broken System by Timothy Egan, New Yok Times, September 25, 2015….. The challenge is not to view his remarks as left or right, a yard gained or lost in a ceaseless struggle. For what is political, or even controversial, about asking people to be more openhearted, to see dignity in the forgotten and the passed over? At its core, the pope’s message was how to live a life and share a planet…“Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good.” It’s been a long time since this Congress did anything for the common good… Instead of being known for what it’s against, the church is showing what it’s for. What’s more, Francis has gone well beyond church concerns to reach for something universal.

Francis is challenging America’s political power brokers By Matthew Bell, PRI’s The World, September 24, 2015 By Matthew Bell, PRI’s The World, September 24, 2015 …Kings, presidents and prime ministers have addressed the full US Congress over the years. But until today, no Catholic pope had spoken before a joint session of the legislature…He said lawmakers must create just legislation to keep their people unified, but at the same time they have a higher purpose.”[Y]ou are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face,” Pope Francis said…The importance of dialogue was a major theme throughout the speech. And in that context, Francis talked about the scourge of armed conflict around the world…“In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade,” Francis said. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature,” he said.  As if to respond to some criticisms from the political right wing that paints this pope as hostile to capitalism and global free markets, Francis said, “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.” Francis went on to say that the common good includes caring for the earthThe pope denounced ideological extremism and fundamentalism as two things that are fueling so many acts of brutality and violence around the world. But he warned that the response to such religious-fueled hatred and killing must strike a balance between combatting violence on the one hand, and protecting religious, intellectual and individual freedom, on the other….Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.”… in speaking to the US Congress, with all the wealth and power its members represent, Francis is consciously wading into the worldly realm of politics. And he is presenting lawmakers with on the left and right with a challenge to rethink their views on some contentious issues.

In Search of the Francis Effect By Ross Douthat, New York Times, September 23, 2015 Now it’s time to pivot from primary politics to papal coverage, as Pope Francis prepares to take the Acela Corridor by storm. My colleague Laurie Goodstein has an overview of the state of American Catholicism …Two and a half years into his papacy, Francis is already much beloved…But … Francis … has yet to create a shift in the dynamics of attendance and participation…This combination — high papal approval ratings with no clear effect on the actual practice of the faith — might look superficially like vindication for some of Francis’s conservative doubters…But while I have sympathies with this anxiety, the reality is that judging a pope’s impact, for good or ill, based on two years of mass attendance is probably a fool’s game….So if there is or is going to be a Francis effect, any short term trend (again, positive or negative) is highly unlikely to capture its valence; what matters is what the people who find him inspiring (or disillusioning) are doing and how the places where he leaves fingerprints look ten or twenty or thirty years from now… Some parts of American Catholicism are conducting clearer Francis-blessed experiments than others, and if we’re going to see an “effect” from this fascinating pope in the long run, it will be found in those experiments and their eventual results.

Save the Pope’s Radical Prophetic Message from Media Trivialization By Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun, September 23, 2015 The recent national conference of the Religion Newswriters Association in Philadelphia focused on preparing the several hundred media attendees for how to cover the Pope’s visit to the U.S. this week. But in panel after panel, we were presented with leaders of the Catholic Church who were unsympathetic to the Pope’s message…The Pope, they insisted, has no politics—he’s above politics and only a humble servant of Jesus. Apparently the right-wingers in the Church hope that the media doesn’t know that Jesus himself was a revolutionary with a powerful call to challenge the way official Judaism at that time, represented by the priests of the Temple, had become assimilated to the values of the Roman occupiers of Judea rather than articulators of the prophetic message of the Torah to “love the stranger” and pursue justice and caring for all. Few Americans realize that the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment is one of the most articulate and accessible presentations of why there is scant chance to avoid environmental disaster unless we radically transform our global economic and political order. The Pope insists that the worldview popularized by global capitalism is deeply misguided…An ethical standard must be introduced into the way we organize our economy. Technological products are not morally neutral, the Pope tells us, “for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions that may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.”…he probably also meant what we at our Network of Spiritual Progressives mean with similar points—that the Left has historically been so religio-phobic and unwilling to talk about love of the stranger…Recognizing the Pope’s prophetic role at this historical moment doesn’t mean that we can’t also urge him to rethink the Church’s stance on women, on homosexuals, on abortion, and on birth control. Yes, there are parts of what he supports that I think need to be changed…We don’t have to stop critiquing those aspects of the Church in order to embrace this Pope as one of the most significant prophetic spiritual progressives alive on the planet, a true brother and amazingly influential ally… So we at Tikkun magazine cheer on his important thinking on the environment, poverty and the need to overcome the dynamics of global capitalism and the culture it has promoted,  and do what we can to bring his radical message to the attention of a society whose media are already hearing a trivialization of the Pope’s message (with the exception of the NY Times and a very few other sources) as they try to transform him into the world’s latest momentary celebrity.

Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress – full text

BY pbs.org/newshour/ September 24, 2015 http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/full-text-of-pope-francis-remarks-to-congress/

Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress as prepared for delivery on Thursday and released by the Vatican press office:

(highlighting done by web site curator, Phyllis Stenerson)


Mr. Vice-President,
Mr. Speaker,
Honorable Members of Congress,
Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. 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. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always best based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

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.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. 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.

But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776).

If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.

Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? 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. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. 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.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

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.

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). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” – Pope Francis

In Laudato Si’, 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. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: 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 to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I 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 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.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as 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.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

Francis: When a Visitor Changes Your Home by Jim Wallis

Excerpt – In a clear message and mandate to Congress, Pope Francis said,

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

By Jim Wallis, Sojourners, 09-25-2015

Stunning is the word that most comes to me after Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Washington, D.C. The country and the media was reveling in his presence, using language like “amazing,” “incredible,” and “wonderful” in response to this extraordinary moral leader who literally transformed our public discourse in the 48 hours he was in the nation’s capital. What these two extraordinary days mean going forward is the big question on all our hearts and minds.

At the formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House, a very traditional template was transformed by the “Vicar of Christ,” whose presence turned everyone’s language to one reference after another to those Christ called “the least of these” in the 25th chapter of Matthew. Never have I heard the most vulnerable being the most talked about in this city.

President Obama began the pope’s visit with these words, “What a beautiful day the Lord has made.”

Indeed. Then Pope Francis introduced himself to America as “a son of an immigrant family” who was “happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”

Point made.

Later he went on to call us to “accepting the urgency. [I]t seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generations.”

Not clear to some political leaders — but clear to the Holy Father. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church — 1.2 billion global souls — called for the “care of our common home,” then lifted up the spirit of hope that defined his entire visit and was my favorite line of the week:

“For we know that things can change.”

In between the official events, Pope Francis seemed happiest when he was moving between ordinary people and encountering (one of his favorite words) the people of America, especially the children.

Yesterday, Sept. 24, Pope Francis delivered his own version of a State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress — one like no other in our nation’s history.

Yes, he spoke powerfully on a number of critical public issues, but he began by calling the political representatives of this country to their proper purpose and vocation as servant leaders.

“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,” he said.

“A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called, and convened by those who elected you.”

The pope cautioned against polarization, and basically told them they should work together — a very radical call in Washington’s ideological and vitriolic divided politics.

Pope Francis’ largest and longest standing ovation from Congress came when he reminded the lawmakers of the Golden Rule — something I never would have imagined.

He spoke of “a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War,” and how “on this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones…”

The pope said we need to learn, “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 … always humane, just, and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Matt. 7:12).”

That’s when all the politicians stood up and clapped.

But the most stunning thing to me was when Pope Francis brought to our attention, in a joint session of the Congress, four examples of extraordinary figures from American history to illustrate his moral convictions about how to serve the common good. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. were great choices but seemed less a surprise, but then he also named Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton; who — along with King — have regularly graced our covers and articles here at Sojourners. I really couldn’t believe it.

For the pope, each of these figures symbolizes a different American dream. In describing them, he said,

“President Abraham Lincoln — liberty; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — racial justice and inclusion; the founder of the Catholic Worker movement Dorothy Day — social justice and the priority of the poor; and Thomas Merton, the contemplative priest — the capacity for openness to God and a dialogue with others, even those of other faiths, with whom we need to build bridges.”

Neither Catholic mentioned — Dorothy Day, working with the poor everyday on the lower east side of Manhattan, or Thomas Merton, walking the hills of Kentucky and praying the daily cycle of prayers at Gethsemani Abbey — could likey have ever imagined being lifted up in the U. S. Congress.

When Pope Francis did speak about particular issues at the congressional podium, he spoke powerfully, in ways that transverse and transcend American political lines. He spoke in favor of abolishing the death penalty but also of protecting human life “at every stage of development.” He condemned the international arms trade as motivated “simply [by] money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” He spoke eloquently about the value of dialogue between hostile nations as an alternative to armed conflict. And throughout his remarks he lifted up the need to protect and provide justice for the poor, the immigrant, and the very planet.

After the speech to Congress, Pope Francis greeted the massive crowd waiting outside from the balcony of the Capitol building, using his native Spanish. “Buenos Días!,” he said to the diverse and beaming crowd.

He gave a blessing to the children praying, “Father of all, bless these. Bless each of them. Bless the families. Bless them all.”

He then asked for the prayers of all Americans, and the good wishes of non-believers, saying, “I ask you all please to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to please send good wishes my way.”

Yet another gesture that makes so many Americans — Catholic, non-Catholic, and non-religious alike — so deeply attracted to this pope.

In the past two days, I have heard the messages of the gospel that Sojourners has spread over four decades presented at the nation’s primary venues of power and lifted up as the country’s leading national media story. Even some of our most beloved gospel heroes were raised before the nation as the Americans the nation needs most to be our examples.

Stunned is the feeling I still have, which is taking my breath away. Pope Francis has indeed changed the national conversation in America this week, pointing to those who also changed the conversation, and then calling us all to continue to do the same. How long this will last is not the deepest question. Rather, it’s whether Pope Francis’ words will fall on fertile or rocky soil as the gospel parable asks, and who will decide in their own lives and in nation-changing movements to now keep this conversation changing.

In a clear message and mandate to Congress, Pope Francis said,

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

This is his clear message and mandate to all of us. We pray for the courage and perseverance to see that mission through. A stunning “Amen.”

Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided, the updated and revised paperback version of On God’s Side, is available now. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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