As the first pope in history to address a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis, defending the human right of masses of oppressed and poor people to immigrate, said “We must not be taken aback by their number, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.
“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’ ” (Mt 7:12).
The Holy Father said, “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
“This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. …
“The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.”
Referring to his encyclical on the environment and humanity’s integral link to it, Francis said, “In Laudato Si’ [“Praise be to you”], I call for a courageous and responsible effort … to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”
With the U.S. leading the world in the sale of weapons, Pope Francis asked its leaders, and the rest of us: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society”? Sadly, the answer 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.”
Next stop, the United Nations.
The following day, Pope Francis, speaking before the U.N. General Assembly, said “Government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development.
“In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labor, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.”
Pope Francis further explained, “These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life.”
He said “war is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war;” in part this means strongly opposing “the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons.”
In a meeting with homeless men and women at St. Patrick parish in Washington, D.C., Pope Francis speaking truth to those with no worldly power, said “We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing. There are many unjust situations, but we know that God is suffering with us, experiencing them at our side. He does not abandon us.”
In the face of so much injustice, injustice Pope Francis is calling us to correct, it is reassuring to know that the God of justice, peace and love is at our side, and will never abandon us.
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.