Pope Francis didn’t shy away from politically-charged issues in his first-ever speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday morning.
The pontiff, on a four-day trip to the United States spoke at the Capitol and told U.S. lawmakers he supports the abolition of the death penalty and offering immigrants a better chance at life rather than deporting them. He also said it’s time for people to come together to stop the most damaging effects of climate change.
Addressing Americans as citizens of the American continent, he said, “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 your are also descendants of immigrants.”
He received a standing ovation from Congress when he invoked the Golden Rule, which is in the Gospel and spoken by Jesus and implores us to “Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.”
“Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion which we ant to be treated,” he said. “Let us set for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.”
Alluding to the national struggle over abortion, Pope Francis implored Congress to respect life at all stages.
“Presently my brother bishops here in the U.S. renewed the call for the abolition of the death penalty,” he said, adding that he fully supports their efforts adding the justice system should not “exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
He also stressed the need for prisoner rehabilitation because “every life is sacred.”
Pope Francis also discussed the need to address the cycle of poverty, income inequality and to create hope for all.
In perhaps the topic that has generated the most controversy around the Pope’s visit, he addressed climate change. He said we need a “ddialogue about our common home, we need a conversation which includes everyone.”
“In Laudato Si, I called for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps and avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity,” he said. “I’m convinced that we can make a difference, I’m sure.”
Watch the Pope’s full speech to Congress via the Vatican’s YouTube channel here: