Pope Francis delivered his historic speech before the U.S. Congress Thursday, raising a gamut of issues from poverty eradication to climate change and urged “courageous actions and strategies” to restore human dignity.
In an hour-long address, the pope threw down the gauntlet to the often-divided Congress to show compassion on immigrants and act against climate change.
“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature,” the pope said.
He called for a “courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps, and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”
“I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play,” he added.
The pope's call appeared to resonate with both Republicans and Democrats, including environmentalists who had gathered among thousands of people at the Washington National mall.
To stress his pitch for migrants, Pope Francis used his own experience saying his parents were immigrants. He even reminded Congress that America was a nation built by immigrants.
"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 you are also descended from immigrants,” he said.
Immigration is a hot-button matter that has divided America for decades, and is already dominating the discourse around next year's U.S. presidential elections.
From Congress, the pope proceeded to meet with homeless people before hearding for New York City where he will address the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.
Meanwhile, a delegation of Zimbabwean Catholics attending a family symposium in Philadelphia say they are excited to be meeting the pope on Saturday as he wraps up his week-long visit.