Pope Francis strongly advocated for immigrants while speaking at a historic speech during a joint session of the U.S. Congress earlier today.
Reiterating the reference to himself as the “son of an immigrant family”, the Argentine-born pontiff reminded attendees that most of them also “descended from immigrants. He urged the audience of legislators, officials and guests to let go of their “fear” against foreigners, and to view migrants including those from Latin America as “persons” rather than “numbers”.
“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,” said Francis in English. “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”.
The Pope invoked the Golden Rule as a “yardstick” in which people should measure their treatment of others including immigrants and refugees.
“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,” he observed.
For Andrea Cristina Mercado, co-director of the “We Belong Together” group of 100 female pilgrims who traveled to Washington, the pontiff’s comments were meaningful and very significant.
“Human dignity is a universal characteristic that cannot vanish if we flee from our homes or cross the border for our safety,” said Mercado after the Pope’s speech.
The Pope’s words may have been inspirational call for unity and introspection, but is it enough to unclog years of Congressional bottleneck on major immigration reform? Probably not according to one immigration analyst but it could shift public attitudes towards much-needed reform:
"It's hard to imagine that even something as powerful as the pope's address will change the hearts and minds of people who demonize immigrants and oppose immigration reform efforts," (Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc.) said. "But I'm hoping the people listening around the country will reach out to their members of Congress and say this is something that needs to be addressed."The Pope covered other topics in his address including abolition of the death penalty, the right to life starting from conception, arms trafficking and better treatment of the poor. Yet he was very careful not to directly mention hot-button terms like “gay marriage” or “abortion” despite alluding to them.
He also invoked famous figures like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King as part of his overall message urging people to overcome ideological and political differences for the good of society.
Francis did not specifically mention the normalization of U.S. diplomatic ties to Cuba, which he helped play a key role in. yet he noted at the Capitol that “new horizons” are opened when countries in conflict seek dialogue. Meanwhile, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi claimed that his Holiness was “surely very happy” over the transitional justice pact reached by the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas on Wednesday.
The Pope left Washington D.C. in the afternoon and is currently in New York City where he is expected to expand on immigration and other important issues during his speech at the U.N. on Friday morning.
YouTube Source – Quartz
Online Sources (English) – The Washington Post, USA TODAY, The Huffington Post
Online Sources (Spanish) – La Raza, El Espectador