Pope Francis addressed a Joint Session of Congress today and challenged the Congress to break out of its cycle of polarization and paralysis to finally use its power to heal the ‘open wounds’ of a planet torn by hatred, greed, poverty and pollution,” according to the New York Times. For the first time, a bishop of Rome took the rostrum and addressed lawmakers (and their guests), speaking about immigration, critiquing the excesses of capitalism, endorsing Obama’s environmental legislative agenda, condemning the arms race and pleaded with the Congress to abolish the death penalty.
In particular, Francis beseeched a nation that generates a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth to not let money drive its decisions at the expense of humanity. “Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one, the greatest common good,” he told a joint meeting of Congress in an address that cited American icons like Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Pope Francis also touched on the issue of “deadly weapons,” saying it is our duty to “stop the arms trade.” According to the transcript of the speech provided by the Washington Post, the pope asked, “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”
The pope added, “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.”
Congresswoman Robin Kelly from the 2nd Illinois’ Congressional District and one of the most vocal supporters of “common sense” gun reform legislation, issued a statement on the Pope’s address and on the issue near and dear to her heart, the “gun violence problem.” The statement read as follows:
I was honored to witness history today in the Pope’s joint address to Congress. Of his many profound statements, I was most touched by his call for an end to the arms trade in the pursuit of global peace and the preservation of human life. It’s a message that is particularly resonant here at home as we grapple with unprecedented levels of gun violence in America.
I hope that his message will inspire my colleagues in Congress to confront our gun violence problem through meaningful gun reform that balances our Second Amendment rights with the rights of all Americans to live free from the threat of gun violence.
Congresswoman Kelly was joined at the papal address by Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church in Chicago, a Roman Catholic priest that has been outspoken about the need to “stop gun violence” and has been a community activist with out-of-the-box ideas to combat the senseless violence.
After his much-anticipated remarks inside the House of Representatives, the pope traveled to visit with Washington’s homeless at St. Patrick’s Church, and to share a meal with those who are without a place to live.
“We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing,” the pope said according to the New York Times. He was mainly speaking in Spanish at the church. He urged the homeless to turn toward prayer for strength, and he beseeched those with means to remember them.
“We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person,” the pope said.