Pope Francis Sets New Goals For the United States

Pope Francis has already served as a monumental pontiff in the history of the Catholic Church. He is the first pope to have been born in the Americas, the first pope from the order of the Jesuits, and he is now the first pope to address the United States Congress. Francis has received great support from the general public, who see him as a pontiff that is bringing the Church back to the people, affectionately naming him ‘The People’s Pope’. Still, Francis continues to face opposition from those that would rather keep with strict old traditions than follow his new vision of compassion and equality, and he still has some ways to go in convincing members of his own church of the new focus on compassion rather than tradition.

Francis arrived in Washington DC earlier this week and gave a speech in which he addressed some of the biggest issues currently facing American politics. From the unveiling of the sexual abuse scandal to the current issue of worldwide immigration, Francis touched a lot of nerves with his blatantly honest and yet encouraging speech he delivered in Washington to the American public and to Congress the next day. In his address, Francis laid down three primary areas of focus that Washington, and the world at large, must continue to work towards in order to form a more unified existence for humanity.

1. Climate Change

Taking action against climate change has been a hot issue in American politics for the last 20 years, mainly acting as a defining characteristic of either the Republican or Democratic Party. Regardless of the political implications, scientists and world leaders, alike, are beginning to recognize the shift in world climate and the long-term and short-term effects it will have on the planet. Francis specifically addressed skeptics of global climate change by saying that the issue requires our immediate attention and is not to be left to the children of tomorrow.

“Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” said Francis, who has been pushing for new climate change policies in countries around the world. Francis has praised President Obama’s initiatives for reducing air pollution and increasing air quality, an issue he has seen very little cooperation with on the part of his conservative counterparts. Nevertheless, the urgency of improving the global warming epidemic is a priority that neither political party should be ignoring.

2. Immigration

Today immigration is a term that no longer only applies to a group of people trying to cross into the United States from Mexico. The migration crisis in Europe, which the Vatican has now begun working to relieve, has made the topic another popular debate in American politics and organizations like the United Nations and the European Union. For Francis, this subject strikes a personal chord. He was born in Argentina, the son of an Italian couple who left the country before he was born, and during his papacy, Francis has remained an unyielding advocate for the humane treatment of immigrants.

Of the current immigration crisis, Francis encouraged Congress 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.” The pope noted that the world has not seen an immigration phenomenon on such a grand scale since World War II. He challenged members of Congress, and the world public, not to be stifled by the numbers, but to try and see the individual in everyone.

3. Equality

Francis also moved to address the issues of poverty and inequality in the United States and the world at large. In his speech to Congress, referenced such American icons as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., noting their efforts and beliefs in the pursuit of liberty and justice for all people. He also mentioned Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, both fighters of oppression and symbols of humanitarian efforts in US history.

The pope also stood up for religious freedom and the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. He noted of preserving religion that, “all are called to be vigilant to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.” Having encouraged the preservation of religious freedom, he also spoke of roles that religion, politics, and technology play in helping us seek out ways to improve our society and live as one, and noted the importance and value of family life in our modern world.

Pope Francis is a pontiff who believes in progress that can keep with the values of the past. He discourages the formation of ideologies that can lead to persecution and division, and instead encourages everyone to view every situation with an open mind. Francis has laid it on Congress to make it their goal, and the goal of every American, to heal the “open wounds of a planet torn by hatred, greed, poverty, and pollution.” How we will respond is entirely up to us.