Pope Francis electrifies Congress with speech laying out bold vision for US
Republicans and Democrats united in praise for pope, who called on Congress to transcend division and act on climate change, immigration and poverty
Pope Francis urged Congress to ‘avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity’ – a reference to climate change.
Pope Francis has electrified Congress with a call for action on climate change, immigration, poverty and capital punishment, laying down a challenge for the United States to transcend division and rediscover its ideals.
The pontiff triggered standing ovations – and squirming – in a historic address on Thursday which deftly mixed politics, policy and pageantry, casting an unfamiliar reverence over Washington which wrong-footed conservatives and liberals alike.
Speaking from a rostrum never before occupied by a pope, the Argentinian told a rare joint meeting of Congress to reject xenophobia and embrace immigrants. “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” he said.
The 50-minute address held the chamber, which was packed with ambassadors and supreme court justices as well as senators and House representatives, spellbound, a feat seldom seen even during presidents’ State of the Union speeches.
John Boehner, the House speaker who invited the pope, wept with emotion. The Catholic congressman had lobbied the Vatican for two decades for such a day.
Francis laid out a bold vision of a more compassionate America which could use its might and ingenuity to heal the “open wounds” of a planet ravaged by hatred, pollution and inequality – a dramatic appeal in the context of polarising and raucous presidential nomination campaigns.
“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.’” The line drew instant, thunderous applause from Democrats, followed with some hesitation by Republicans, a pattern repeated throughout the address.